The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is also known as the Fountain of the Four Rivers and is located in Rome, Italy. It is the centerpiece of the Novona Square, and it is a very famous fountain that many tourists visit every year. It was designed for Pope Innocent X by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1651. Pope Innocent X was a member of the aristocratic Pamphili family.
The building of this fountain was opposed by the Roman people for a number of reasons. A very unpopular tax was levied on meat, bread and salt, during the famine of 1646 to 1648. During the entire construction there were talks about rioting. A lot of critical comments were written on a number of the stone blocks that were used for the construction of the obelisk. Pope Innocent X had the writers arrested and he installed spies to patrol the area.
The Fountain’s Design
There are four large giants in the fountain that represent four rivers. The rivers are the Rio del La Plata, Ganges, Nile, as well as the Danube. Each of these statues also represents one of the known continents at that time. These giants are situated on a very large rock that is in the fountain’s circular basin. Each area is additionally enhanced by various plants and animals from that particular continent. The Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi also features a very tall obelisk that is 115 feet tall.
The Colossal Statues
The sea god figures were created by Bernini’s students. The sculptor designed the sea creature, palm tree and lion as well. The Danube sculpture, which represents Europe, was designed by Antonio Raggi. To the left of it is the Ganges figure which was designed by Claude Poussin. The Nile figure represents Africa, and was designed by Giacomo Antonio Fancelli. The Rio de la Plata was designed by Francesco Baratta, and it represents the American continent. It is decorated with silver coins to symbolize the plata or silvery waters of the continent.
The obelisk of the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi is 52 feet tall and it was once located at the Circus of Maxentius, close to the Via Appia Antica. This obelisk is Roman, rather than Egyptian. The Roman Emperor Domitianus had it made from porphyry material. It was created in 81 AD, for the Roman Serapeum. The Pamphili family crest is situated on the top of it.
In June of 1651, the fountain was presented to the public. Once the fountain was unveiled, a festival was held in honor of Pope Innocent X. Public fountains in the Roman Empire had a many purposes. They were a source of water for the citizens in the area, and they were also papal monuments.
There are many different stories about the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, and some are centered on the rivalry between Borromini and Bernini. One story implies the fountain’s giant figures depict Bernini’s dislike for the church. The fountain is topped with the triumph symbol of the Holy Spirit Dove which represented the influence that the Church had over the four different continents.