The Fascinating History and Mystery of the Baroque Fountains of Rome

The Baroque Fountains of Rome

The 17th and 18th centuries were a golden era for water springs in Rome, which began with the restoration of the ruined Roman aquarium and the initiation of the construction or exhibition of the springs by Pope Mostra.

The Catholic Church formally promoted the New Baroque artistic manifestations as a strategy for gaining support from the populace against the Reparamadu reform.

Sculpture became the main element in these water fountains, and the water was simply used to animate and decorate the sculptures. Like Baroque gardens, they were “a visual demonstration of faith and power.”

1. The Fountains of St. Peter’s Square (Fontane di Piazza San Pietro)

Fountain at Piazza San Pietro
Fountain at Piazza San Pietro ca. 1980s-1990s Vatican City

In St. Peter’s Square, two fountains date from the 17th century. After the Aqua Traiana, an old Roman aqueduct, was rebuilt, the architect Carlo Maderno (1556-1629) built the fountain on the north side of the piazza. The repaired aqueduct, called Acqua Paola, supplied a large amount of water to the piazza.

Before Pope Clement X’s (1670–76) decision to commission Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) to build a second fountain, the plaza’s south side was left empty for more than half a century.

2. Triton Fountain (Fontana del Tritone)

Triton Fountain

Another of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s designs is the Triton Fountain. The family of Pope Urban VII owned the Palazzo Barberini, for which this was constructed.

Several fountain features represent the Barberini family and Pope Urban VII. The family coat of arms incorporates the three Bs. The keys and tiara serve as symbols for the pope.

One of Bernini’s sources of inspiration for this fountain was Ovid’s Metamorphosis. The legend describes how Triton, the son of Neptune, put a stop to the great flood by blowing his horn. The image of Triton shows him as a powerful sea god seated on a scallop shell and held up by four dolphins.

3. Fountain of Neptune

Fountain of Neptune

The magnificent architecture of Francesco Borromini’s church of Saint Agnes may be seen in the background as Neptune fights a sea monster in Piazza Navona.

The least well-known of Piazza Navona’s three central fountains, this one is the Fountain of Neptune on the north side. In 1574, Giacomo Della Porta created the basin as a drinking fountain.

4. The Fountain of Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi)

The Fountain of Four Rivers

In Rome, Italy’s Piazza Navona, there is a fountain called the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Gian Lorenzo Bernini created it in 1651 for Pope Innocent X.

The fountain’s base is a basin from which travertine rocks support four river gods, and above them is a replica of an Egyptian obelisk topped with the Pamphili family crest of a dove holding an olive branch.

Together, they represent the four main rivers of the four continents through which papal authority had spread: the Ganges for Asia, the Danube for Europe; the Nile for Africa; and the Rio de la Plata for the Americas.

5. The Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi)

The Trevi Fountain

A fountain from the 18th century, the Trevi Fountain is located in Rome’s Trevi district. The Trevi Fountain, which is about 20 meters wide and 26 meters tall, is also the biggest in the city.

Italian architect Nicola Salvi designed it, and Giuseppe Pannini and other professionals completed it.


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Written by Rylan Santos

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