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Hanno

Hanno (in Italian, Annone) was the pet white elephant of Pope Leo X (born Giovanni de'Medici), and the subject of the book "The Pope's Elephant: An Elephant's Journey from Deep in India to the Heart of Rome" by Silvio A. Bedini. He was the gift of King Manuel I of Portugal on the Pope's coronation. King Manuel had either received him as a gift from the King of Cochin, or had asked Alfonso d'Albuquerque to purchase him. Hanno was said to be white in colour. Hanno arrived by ship from Lisbon to Rome in 1514, aged about four years, and was kept initially in an enclosure in the Belvedere courtyard, then moved to a specially constructed building between the St. Peter's Basilica and the Apostolic Palace, near the Borgo Sant'Angelo. His arrival was commemorated in poetry and art. Pasquale Malaspina[?] wrote:

In the Belvedere before the great Pastor
Was conducted the trained elephant
Dancing with such grace and such love
That hardly better would a man have danced:
And then with its trunk such a great noise
It made, that the entire place was deafened:
And stretching itself on the ground to kneel
It then straightened up in reverence to the Pope,
And to his entourage.

Hanno became a great favourite of the papal court and was featured in processions. Sadly, Hanno fell ill suddenly, was given a purgative, and died on 8 June 1516, with the pope at his side. Hanno was laid to rest in the Cortile del Belvedere, after just two years in Rome, and seven years of life.

The artist Raphael designed a memorial fresco (which does not survive), and the Pope himself composed the epitaph:

Under this great hill I lie buried
Mighty elephant which the King Manuel
Having conquered the Orient
Sent as captive to Pope Leo X.
At which the Roman people marvelled, --
A beast not seen for a long time,
And in my brutish breast they perceived human feelings.
Fate envied me my residence in the blessed Latium
And had not the patience to let me serve my master a full three years.
But I wish, oh gods, that the time which Nature would have assigned to me, and Destiny stole away,
You will add to the life of the great Leo.

He lived seven years
He died of angina
He measured twelve palms in height.
Giovanni Battista Branconio dell'Aquila
Privy chamberlain to the pope
And provost of the custody of the elephant,
Has erected this in 1516, the 8th of June,
In the fourth year of the pontificate of Leo X.

That which Nature has stolen away
Raphael of Urbino with his art has restored.

There are four sketches of Hanno, done in life with red chalk, in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford.

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