• June 14, 2018

Fountain of Four Rivers

Fountain of Four Rivers

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A masterpiece of John Lorenzo Bernini, one of the most famous architects of Italian Baroque. The Fountain of Four Rivers is a symbol of Baroque architecture itself. It stands in the middle of Piazza Navona. Thousands of tourists come to the square daily. Let us take you there on our tour:)! We will tell you more about this beautiful place.

The Four Rivers

River god Nile in the Fountain of Four rivers at Piazza Navona in Rome

The River god Nile on the fountain of Four Rivers covers his face. That`s Bernini`s expression of saying that at the time the position of springs of the Nile was unknown.

There are four statues of men in the fountain. These men represent the gods of rivers of back then known continents. The Nile is there for Africa. The Danube represents Europe. The Ganges stands for Asia. And The Rio de la Plata represents America. Above these statues, there is an obelisk. However, it is only a copy of Egyptian obelisk, it is still very old. It comes from ancient Rome and Bernini moved it here from Via Appia Antica.

The Rio de la Plata

Not only they didn’t know all the continents before but also some of the animals were a mystery for them. You can notice it around the statue of the Rio de la Plata. On its left side, you see a water dragon. There is one even more interesting statue. It looks like a crocodile wearing iron armour. This statue represents an armadillo. In life it is a little quite a cute animal, right? But before, since it was a new species for them, their imagination could work wider and have no boundaries:)!

The Rivals

River god Rio de Plata in Fountain of Four rivers at Piazza Navona in Rome

The river god of America, Rio de Plata, with cactus and basket of golden coins.

There is a legend about the god of the American continent. It looks like he was trying to protect his face with his hand against the church. He might think the church is too ugly or that he might be afraid of the church falling on his face. That’s because John Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, who was the architect of the church, were rivals. As a result of this people started to say that is was Bernini’s way how to criticize the design of the church. Although the legend sounds quite interesting it is not true. The Fountain of Four Rivers was finished before the church. There was no chance For Bernini to realise this joke for these reasons:)! The real reason is that the god protects his face against the rays of the sun.

The Nile

The god of the Nile is the one whose face is covered with a piece of cloth. That’s because at the times they built the fountain none exactly knew where the source of the river was. For this reason, Bernini made this god blind. Next to the god, there is a statue of a lion. It seems like he was getting out of his cave, getting ready to start chasing his prey. Above them, there is a palm as a symbol of Africa.

Bernini’s Horse

Statues of rivers from the fountain of four rivers at Piazza Navona in Rome

Piazza Navona and Fountain of Four Rivers in Rome

John Lorenzo Bernini designed the whole fountain himself. When the design was done he passed the work to his students to finish it. He said that once the design is done it is not that difficult anymore to realise it. The only statute in the Fountain of Four Rivers which was actually done by Bernini is the horse. It stands right next to the god of Europe, the Danube. Bernini occupied himself more with the positions of the rocks. He wanted to make the composition of the fountain really perfect.

The Pamphili

Dove on the top of Egyptian obelisk in the middle of Piazza Navona in Rome

On the top of Egyptian obelisk stands bronze dove, symbol of Phampilj family

Do you see the dove on the top of the obelisk? It was a symbol of the Pamphili. A wealthy and important family. In the square, there is also Palazzo Pamphili, one of the seats of this noble dynasty. It is the palace with the Brazilian flag on its facade. Every time when someone paid for something to let it be built they put their signature on it. Therefore all people could see, that the family could afford it:). You can see the dove not only on the top of the obelisk. There are few more also on the fence in front of St. Agnes church. The dove was not only a symbol of the power of the family but also a symbol of peace.