Hidden treasures

The mistery of 'Sator' at the Siena Cathedral

Mysteries & Legends
SATOR_Duomo_di_Siena.jp

The mistery of 'Sator' at the Siena Cathedral

If you like to solve puzzles... Siena Cathedral is just the right thing for you, I would say! You should know that precisely the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta hides a riddle still unresolved today: in the lower part of the outer wall overlooking the Archbishop's Palace, is the famous 'Sator', also known as 'magic square'. In theory, it was placed there in the 14th century, at the end of the building works even if, in reality, it could also have been recovered from the previous building and therefore be even older.

What is it exactly? This is a Latin inscription, composed of the following five-letter words:

  • SATOR
  • AREPO
  • TENET
  • OPERA
  • ROTAS

A first oddity is that these letters, read in the order indicated, give rise to a palindrome, that is a phrase that turns out to be identical either by reading it from left to right or from right to left.

The 'Sator', also present in other archaeological finds scattered all over Europe, has become a real myth that for years has fascinated scholars, lovers of esotericism and simply those with a flair for interesting facts. Although several hypotheses have been formulated, the meaning of the magic square and the words that compose it, remain a mystery today.

Commonly the word 'SATOR' is considered the subject of the sentence and is translated with 'The Sower.

'AREPO' is the only word whose origin is still unknown today and remains, therefore, a nice puzzle for palaeographers.

'TENET' is translated as 'Hold' and is the cornerstone of the sentence.

'OPERA' is considered an adverbial of means, as if to say 'with the works'.

And finally, ‘ROTAS’, interpreted as a direct object, or 'the wheels'. 

Therefore, if you want a translation to the letter, the sentence would read 'The sower (ie the farmer) arepo (not translatable) keeps with the works (understood as his work) the wheels', a sentence that is clearly meaningless. Other interpretations result in 'The Sower, with the cart, takes care of the wheels' where the sower, has a strong reference to the Gospel text or even' Arepo, the Sower 'masterfully holds the plow', where Arepo indicates a personal name.

In short, there is something for everyone! Even some scholars are convinced that, regardless of its literary meaning, the 'Sator' represents a numerical symbol that would hide other precious answers ...

As you will have understood, the truth is still far away ... If you also want to study and try your hand at interpreting this ancient enigma, we advise you first to see it with your own eyes ... don’t hesitate, Siena Cathedral awaits you!

And while you're there, why not book one of our tours in this beautiful Tuscan city and learn about all its sights? Visit the 'Tour in Siena' section of our portal ... we are sure you will find the right proposal for you!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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