I saw this text carved at the foot of a statue in Klagenfurt, Austria:

enter image description here

I guess it's in Latin and Google translate gave me a sketchy translation.

But I don't get why some letters are capitalized? Are they Roman numerals? If so, how should the numbers be read and do they have any relation to the text?

Update: The statue actually has 4 sides and these are the other three texts:

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • 1
    It might help to have the whole text. – fdb Oct 7 at 13:26
  • 1
    Welcome to the site! This is a nice question but I second @fdb. I'd be far more confident giving an answer if I saw more. Do you happen to have all four pictures? – Joonas Ilmavirta Oct 7 at 14:43
  • 3
    @JoonasIlmavirta, I added pictures of the other 3 texts. – Mahm00d Oct 8 at 9:02

Ooh, very nice! This is a short phrase written in Latin, where all the letters that could be read as numerals also add up to a date.

The Latin is a dedication to the Trinity:

indivisae triadi
To the undivided Trinity,

patri non genito
to the Father, who was not born,

filio unigenito
to the only-begotten Son,

spiritui abhis procedenti
to the Spirit proceeding from them.

The numerals, rearranged, are DDD C L VVV IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII. D means 500, C means 100, L means 50, V means 5, and I means 1. (The other two you might find are M = 1000 and X = 10, but those don't show up here. Occasionally S means 1/2, but that's not being used here, since we're only concerned with years.)

So we have 1500 + 100 + 50 + 15 + 16 = 1681.

  • Great and clear answer, thanks! I was trying to add up the numbers as they are appeared in the text. Haven't thought of rearranging and putting same letters together! – Mahm00d Oct 8 at 6:54
  • The "procession" of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son is a set theological concept, from the Latin version of the Nicene Creed. – fdb Oct 8 at 12:44
  • Thus I suggest "proceeding", not "shining forth". – fdb Oct 8 at 12:53
  • 1
    Why do the numerals have to be rearranged in this particular—strictly additive—way? Why shouldn't e.g. "I DIVI" read as "(-1+500)+(-1+5)+1" or something like that? – Ruslan Oct 9 at 11:50
  • 1
    @Ruslan As written, the numbers can't be read as roman numerals. "ID", for example, is not a number. (499 would be written as CDXCIX). If we decide to add them instead, then it makes no difference whether we rearrange them or not. But maybe it's easier to add if you rearrange them first. – bornfromanegg Oct 9 at 14:18

The text is from the trinity column of Klagenfurt.
It has been built after the pest epidemic of 1680/1681.
Not only one side has a chronogram but each one has one and each has the same value - 1681.

I decided to translate the text first to German, my native language, and then to English. On the linked site is a german translation which may be better, but I did not use it, so the translation might have some rough edges. Due to first translating from Latin to German and also from German to English.

First side:


zum Zeichen der Dankbarkeit
as a sign of gratidude

wollten Sie errichten.
they wanted to errect.

Second side: (english translation by @Draconis)

Der unteilbaren Dreiheit,
To the undivided Trinity,

dem ungeborenen Vater,
to the Father, who was not born,

dem eingeborenen Sohn,
to the only-begotten Son,

dem von diesen hervorgehenden Geist
to the Spirit shining forth from them

Third side:

für die barmherzige Rettung der Häuser dieser Stadt
for the mercyful rescue of the houses of this city

vor dem Gift der Pest.
from the poison of the pest.

(this has been integrated into the first fragment)

Fourth side:

Demütig auf die Knie werfend (=kniend)
Humbly groveling(?) (=kneeling)

empfangen die Adeligen dieser Provinz und die Bürger
the noble of this province and the citizens

deine Gnade.
receive your grace.

  • "Einziggeboren", not "eingeboren". – fdb Oct 8 at 12:56
  • And Pest/pest are false friends. In English it is "plague". – fdb Oct 8 at 13:09
  • @fdb In other words, not "pest" but pestis? – Draconis Oct 8 at 14:32
  • 1
    @fdb: "Eingeboren" is idiomatic in this context, see de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eingeborener_Sohn – Heinzi Oct 8 at 14:38
  • @Heinzi, You are right. – fdb Oct 8 at 14:40

The Letters are all ROMAN NUMERALS and inscriptions of this sort are called chronograms

There are three D s, a C, and an L; so the date of the monument or the event it records will be shortly after 1650. The remaining VVVIIIIIIIIIIIIIII add another thirty-one years.

  • 2
    I make it 1681. – Strawberry Oct 7 at 22:45

The statue in question is the "Dreifaltigkeitssäule", the "column of trinity" in Klagenfurt, Austria. As others already mentioned, the capitalized letters add up to a number, in this case to the year 1681.

Around that time, there were multiple outbreaks of the Plague in Germany, Austria, Bohemia and neighboring areas, killing tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people. But due to a strict isolation of the city and measures of hygiene, the city of Klagenfurt was spared (or at the very least, not affected as badly). To give thanks, a wooden column was put up at Heiligengeistplatz ("holy spirit square").

So called "Pestsäulen" ("Plague columns") were monuments to commemorate the Plague and to give thanks that it eventually ended. Many Plague columns displayed the Holy Trinity or one of the saints that were called upon for help against the disease.

A few years later, 1683, Ottoman troops failed to conquer Vienna. The people in Klagenfurt took that occasion to replace the wooden column with one made of stone which "doubled" as a victory column: While the base still commemorated the Plague, the top displayed an erect christian cross towering over a lying, beaten crescent.

Over the following centuries, the column of trinity was moved twice. Since 1965 it's located at Alte Platz ("old square").

Sources (in German, mostly):





Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.