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Lausanne, Switzerland
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Misplaced in Translation Lausanne  Switzerland

Misplaced in Translation

From Hebrew into Latin into Gothic stone: Moses sprouts horns in this entryway of Lausanne's Cathedral.

Commanding a hill above Lake Geneva, this 12th-century jewel of Swiss architecture is not alone in depicting a doubly-protuberant prophet. Perhaps the most famous example is Michelangelo's sculpture in the Vatican.

These curious statues stand as permanent reminders to language-learners everywhere: Be very careful when translating.

The Hebrew original states that Moses' face "emitted rays (of light)" after coming down from Mt. Sinai; when translated into the Latin Vulgate in the 4th century, his face ended up "emitting horns." And so, through Medieval and Renaissance sculptors' hands, Moses gains a satyr's head. Oops.