Er Papa e Romanesco

Yesterday the Holy Father visited a parish in the Testaccio area of Rome, along the river, S. Maria Liberatrice.  He was presented with a poem, in honor of his visit, in Romanesco, the dialect of Rome.  The Holy Father said:

I am very happy to be with you here today. Unfortunately I don’t speak Romanesco, but as Catholics we are all a little Roman and we carry Rome in our hearts, and so we understand a little of the Roman dialect. 

Too true!

Did you know that the Internet Prayer I wrote some years ago was rendered into Romanesco?  Yep, it’s true!  I had a recording of it, read by the Roman who made it, but, alas, I have lost track of where it is!  I will get another soon, I hope.

Mind you, Romanesco, or in this case Romanacci, isn’t really a good language for very literal translations.  This time I make the exception of dynamic equivalence.  If you know something of Roma, well… you wouldn’t need to ask why.


Orazzione prima da collegasse a la rete
Oddio ‘nnipotente ‘n zempiterno, che c’hai fatto apparo de ‘na pittura de Sampietro,
e c’hai detto:"bbadate da cerca’ le cose bbone, ‘ndo’ stanno stanno e senza torna’ ‘ndietro,(2)
e speciarmente in de la perzona de Mi’ fijo e Signore Vostro Ggesucristo",(3)
fa’ che Sant’Isidoro, Vescovo e Dottore come sarvognuno nun z’era mai visto,(4)
ce dia ‘na mano a ggira’ co’ ‘sti machinari in de la rete de’ internette,
addopranno occhi e mmano cercanno da piacette
e trattanno tutti quelli che che ‘ncontramo
come farebbe Cristo, fijo Tuo, e nno Ccaino, fijo d’Adamo.
Pe’ Ccristo Nostro Signore. Ame’.

(1) A reference to the Sistine Chapel and the catechetical intent of the depiction of Gen 1,26-27
(2) Luke 9:62
(3) Surely a Roman commoner would have God speak in first person.
(4) "sarvognuno" = "no disrespect to all others"

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jonathan Bennett says:

    What is the differance between Romanesco and Italian?

  2. Garrett says:

    Modern-day Italian really arises from the Tuscan dialect, doesn’t it?

  3. That’s perfect.
    The Roman dialect sounds exactly like this.
    This calls to mind hot summer nights, grimy back streets, blackened stone facades, dribbling fountains, peeling stucco.
    I can almost smell the dusty streets, the bad drains, the trattorie, the (I can only think of one word) Romanita.
    Thanks for the memory.

  4. There is no such thing as Italian – rather like Italy. Or, as Prince von Metternich said, “The word ‘Italy’ is a geographical expression, a description which is useful shorthand….” He went on.

    Some of the “dialects” of Italian are really quite unintelligible to speakers of the other ones. I was working with an individual instructor a few years ago and reading mystery short stories on my own time. I came across some sentences in a Neapolitan story that I couldn’t figure out. She couldn’t either. It’s 2 hours south by train.

  5. Tom says:

    When I was in “Italy” there was a game show on TV where the objective was to Name the Dialect.

    I guess some of them are disappearing with mass communication.

  6. Federico says:

    Garrett: Modern-day Italian really arises from the Tuscan dialect, doesn’t it?

    It is an oversimplification to state that Italian arose out of the Tuscan dialect, as it is an error to claim that Italy’s languages are dialects of Italian. The earlierst relative to Italian (from which lineage can be established) is probably the Sicilian language spoken in the court of king Roger in Palermo. In fact, it’s likely that Roger (who always tried to bring the best to his court, including jurists from Bologna, mosaic artists from Greece, Islamic artists from Fatimid Egypt, etc.) may have fostered the development of the language.

    We know that Dante laid the groundword for his choice of a vulgar (that is, of the people)language to compose the Divine Comedy in his treatise De vulgari eloquentia. In it, Dante praises the language of Sicily and slams the Roman tongue of the time….

    There are some interesting modern developments in the languages of Italy. They had been marginialised as “dialects” in part as an attempt to unite the nation, in part to optimize scarce resources. The constitution provides that language minorities are entitled to protection and when you have that many language minorities, well, it gets unwieldy. Some are dialects indeed (I would argue Romanesco is a dialect) but some are very much separate languages. Some of them (for instance, Griko spoken in parts of Puglia and Calabria) are not even romance languages (Griko is a derivative of Greek); Sardinian shares more with Catalan than Italian, Sicilian with French, Spanish, and Catalan, Neapolitan with Spanish, etc.

    The attitude is changing of late. Under international pressure (and a desire to restore traditional written and oral traditions that were being lost) more and more languages are being recognized. Public schools in Naples and Sicily (these are the ones I know of) are teaching the local language.

    This all begs the question…Mass translation in the vernacular…which vernacular?


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