Hermes Trismegistus by Giovanni di Stefano, ca. 1481-1498. Marble pavement, Cathedral of Siena.
I’ve been to the Cathedral of Siena multiple times, aware that it was famous for its marble pavements (there are a ton), but I only learned last year that one of them featured Hermes Trismegistus. I made it a point to snag a photo during my visit this year. I’m still trying to figure out why a Catholic church includes a pavement featuring a Late Antique pagan god of magic and divination.
The inscription reads “Deus Omnium Creator / Secum Deum Fecit / Visibilem Et Hunc / Fecit Primum Et Solum / Quo Oblectatus Est Et / Valde amavit Proprium / Filium Qui Appelatur Sanctum Verbum.”
Or: “God, the creator of all, made a second god. He made this one visible, and the first and the only, with whom he was pleased, and he loved his own son deeply, who is named “the Holy Word.” (My rough translation.)
The gift shop for the Cathedral museum had a book of the proceedings of an academic conference on Hermeticism and magic in Renaissance Siena, which I bought. One of the contributors, Vinicio Serino, seems to suggest that this is some attempt at reconciling some of the more esoteric traditions of pagan Classicism with Christianity, although I only skimmed the article and haven’t bothered fully translating it from Italian. He cites a passage from the Asclepius of the Corpus Hermeticum, which does sound quite similar. And there are definitely echoes of John 1:1 in the inscription. But I don’t know how convinced I am by that argument.