Bellerophon and the Jesuit Philosopher

To succeed in his mission, like a new Bellerophon, the Jesuit philosopher must combine intellectual gifts with those of prudence.

The fourteenth emblem of Andrea Alciato, Consilio et Virtute Chimeram Superari, one of several devoted to prudence, depicts the figure of Bellerophon fighting the hybrid creature of Chimera.

According to the opinion of Professor Diego López, responsible for the comments of the 17th-century edition, the Chimera, with its mixed form of lion, goat, and dragon, represented a whole variety of vices. To overcome them, the wise man should maintain a virtuous and prudent behavior, as personified by the hero Bellerophon:

Chimera […] is a variety of maleficence and different forms of power. So when we see a confusing thing, we say: What Chimera is this? Bellerophon means a wise, knowledgeable, and cautious man. Thus Alciato makes us understand that to overcome so many vices and so many abominable thoughts, with which the world and the enemy attack us, symbolized by Chimera, we must be well-informed, wise, and prudent men like Bellerophon.

Andrea Alciato, Emblemata, 1591
Andrea Alciato, Emblemata, 1591.

On the tile panel of the metaphysics classroom of the Espírito Santo College of Évora, a putto holds a cartouche with the inscription: Chimaeram Insectatur, in an adaptation of the motto of the Italian humanist emblem, which takes advantage of the polysemy of the verb insequor (chase/hunt) to reinforce the relationship with the hunt depicted in the picture.

The Chimera, the mythical animal that the Latin professor Bento Pereira describes as a “monster that pretended to behave like a lion, goat, snake, and vomit fire,” was here, naively, represented by three distinct animals concealed between the mountains.

Chase the Chimera. Great Lisbon Workshop. Valentim de Almeida e Sebastião Gomes Ferreira, c. 1745. Metaphysics classroom of the Colégio do Espírito Santo, Évora. © Teresa Verão.

Among the various tile panels that in the classroom define the philosophical scope of the metaphysical investigation, the Jesuit philosopher has a fundamental mission, which is to discern, among the various theological interpretations, the true one. To succeed in this research, he must combine intellectual gifts with those of prudence, following the advice of wise men, avoiding individual ambitions and vanity.


MENDEIROS, José Filipe. Os azulejos da Universidade de Évora. Tiles of the University of Evora. Évora: Universidade de Évora, 2002.

Évora, Colégio do Espírito Santo

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