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Sigmund Freud: The Time For Understanding

The Letter, Issue 38, Autumn 2006, Pages 10 - 21


Helen Sheehan

On September 2nd 1901 when Sigmund Freud was forty-five years old he at last found himself in Rome, something which had the highest emotional significance for him and one which he called 'the high point of my life'?[2]

In a letter of October 1898 he had written to his friend Fliess, 'I am studying the topography of Rome, the yearning for which becomes ever more tormenting'[3], and four months later he spoke of a wish, which would mature, 'if only I could get to Rome'.[4]

When he finally conquered his resistance of going to the Eternal City and realised his dream he tells us, 'Not only did I bribe the Trevi Fountain as everyone does. I also - and invented this myself- dipped my hand in the Bocca delta Verita at Santa Maria Cosmedin and vowed to return'.[5]

On the fourth day of that visit in 1901 he caught sight of the statue of Moses carved by Michelangelo for the tomb of Pope Julius II. He wrote to his wife that same day, 'Plötzlich durch Mich verstanden', which Ernest Jones translates as: 'I have come to understand the meaning of the statue by contemplating Michelanglo's intention'.[6]

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