Audio File length: 3.01
English / USA Language: English / USA

As you surely know, Piazza Navona is famous for its fountains, but perhaps you don't know that they have had a long and tormented history. The two side fountains were placed here in the second half of the 1500s at the request of Pope Gregory VIII and are called Fontana del Moro and Fountain of Neptune. The latter totally lacked statues until the second half of the 19th century, when the main group and perimeter sculptures were added. But the queen of the square, in the center, is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, or Fountain of the Four Rivers, an extraordinary work by Bernini. He also sculpted the powerful statue of the Moro, while the tritons and masks are nineteenth-century copies of those of the late 1500s which have since been transported to Villa Borghese's gardens.

As I mentioned, the Fountain of the Four Rivers is one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome. As can be seen by his various drawings and wooden and terracotta sketches, Bernini took a long time to create this sensational masterpiece. The fountain coincides with the years when Pope Innocent X Pamphili was in office, which is the only time that the great architect's shining career ran into a bit of bad luck. To regain the Pope's favor, Bernini succeeded in creating this astonishing work which almost seems to oppose the laws of physics. If you look closely at the slender, tall obelisk, it seems to be leaning... on nothing; that is, on the hollow part of the animated rock that forms the core of the complex. All around, among the rocks or near the pool, enjoy yourself cataloging the different types of animals and plants that form an imaginative encyclopedia of botany and zoology from the mid-1600s. Of course, the most impressive detail is the personifications of the four great rivers, which symbolize the then-known continents. The Danube is for Europe, the Ganges for Asia, the Nile for Africa, and the Rio de la Plata for the Americas, which, as you can see, also have the alleged somatic features of the inhabitants of their continents.


FUN FACT: various legends have arisen around these statues and the historic rivalry between Bernini and Borromini, who designed the façade of the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone. The Rio de la Plata, for example, raises his hand to protect himself from the imminent collapse of the church, while the Nile covers her face with a veil to avoid having to look at it!

And with this we have finished our tour of Piazza Navona. MyWoWo thanks you for staying with us, and will see you at the next Wonder of the World!


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