Monday, October 09, 2006

Piazza Navona - Fountain of Four Rivers

Piazza Navona - Fountain of Four Rivers

This view over the Piazza Navona is part of one of the panoramic images found on the Tour of Rome. There are over 100 images taken from around Rome linked to an interactive map.

Full 360° panorama of the Piazza Navona

There are a few things that dominate the Piazza Navona of today. The first is the huge Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the centre of the long oval square topped with a large obelisk. The other is the shear number of cafés and restaurants that line the piazza. In this sense, the piazza almost feels like the Tardis from Dr.Who as it seems that surely there must be more seating space than the construction of the square could possibly allow for.

Piazza Navona started off life as the Stadium of Domitian, built in 85 AD to hold some 30,000 spectators, and the square still retains the original shape. Most of the streets lead into Piazza Novana where there were gates to the original stadium. Athletes used to enter along Via Agonale, and the area was known as Campus Agonis in the middle ages. From this through ‘in Agonale’ and ‘n’Agona’ the name ‘Navona’ is derived.

Piazza Navona fell into disrepair after the fall of the Roman Empire, decaying into use as a filed and vineyard until the 14C when it became a market place. The current form of the square developed under the orders of pope Innocent X, who also had the Pamphilj Palace built on the square for is family and personal use.

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or 'Fountain of the Four Rivers'
This is one of Bernini’s most famous works, along with the Piazza S Pietro in the Vatican. The base of the fountain holds four colossal statues representing four major rivers of the then known world:
Danube for Europe
Ganges for India
Nile for Egypt (with a covered face as the source of the river was not known at the time)
Rio della Plata for America.

Each figure is semi-prostrate before the obelisk places at the centre of the tower. This is meant to symbolize the then sovereignty of the pope over the temporal domains. The obelisk itself was made in Egypt for Demitian and started off it’s Roman career in the Circus of Maxentius on Via Appia, where, after the fall of Rome, it lay for centuries in five pieces before being moved here.

The image here shows two of the statues at the base of the fountain, and the hollow in the massive travertine rocks. In the 17C to 19C the piazza was regularly flooded by stopping up the fountain outlets and the people would play in the water. The full panoramic image shown on the Rome tour by For better appreciation of this image go to the collection on Flickr.

For more articles on Rome see the Rome Index or select one of the labels at the bottom.


Jay Annadatha said...


Just wanted to correct you.

Ganges is the most sacred river in India and not Africa. Hope you will make the corrections.

Jay Annadatha

peterwatts said...

Jay, thanks for that, bit of a stupid mistake, now corrected.

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