Piazza Mattei and Fontana delle Tartarughe (Tortoise Fountain)

"Piazza Mattei and Fontana delle Tartarughe (Tortoise Fountain)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Wednesday 9th November 2011

Piazza Mattei and Fontana delle Tartarughe (Tortoise Fountain)

The name of this square derives from the property that the Mattei family had in this zone. In the middle of it is Fontana delle Tartarughe, built according to a design of G.Della Porta in 1581-1584, with the bronze sculptures by T.Landini, and restored in 1658 probably by G.L.Bernini.

Piazza Mattei (Mattei Square) is situated in the heart of Renaissance Rome. It is overlooked by the Palazzo Costaguti, with its wonderful fresco ceilings by Guercino, Domenichino, Lanfranco and other artists; the low and bare facades of the two ancient palazzos Mattei built at the end of the 15th century and in the first half of the 16th century, probably by Nanni di Baccio Bigio for Mattei’s sons.

One of Rome's most elegant fountains is located in the center of this piazza, the Fontana delle Tartarughe (the Tortoise Fountain). It is one of the most beautiful fountains of Rome. The fountain itself was designed by Giocomo della Porta at the end of the 16th century, but it was Bernini who added the tortoises in 1658. Originally the place of four tortoises was occupied by four dolphins. The sculptures of tortoises were stolen several times, and finally replaced by copies (three originals are now in Musei Capitolini).
Piazza Mattei and Fontana delle Tartarughe (Tortoise Fountain), Rome
The fontana delle Tartarughe (Tortoises) is one of Giacomo della Porta’s most elegant works, built in the years 1581-1584 and decorated with bronze ephebi and dauphins by the Florentine Taddeo Landini. At the centre of the mistilinear pond at the ground level, a base decorated with cartouches supports four large African marble ponds that receive water from dauphins on which four ephebi rest on one foot in the act of pushing four tortoises towards the edge of the dull-gray marble basin supported by a baluster.

The basin receives water from the main spurt that flows into the basin below from the mouths of four putti. The tortoises were probably added by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1658 when the fountain was restored at the time of pope Alexander the Seventh Chigi (1655-1667). They were subject to repeated thefts in 1906, 1944, and recently in 1981. The current tortoises are copies of the surviving originals that are kept in the Capitoline Museums.

On the square is Palazzo Costaguti with a harmonious door and beautiful helicoidal staircase. Inside are the halls decorated with the splendid frescoes by Domenichino, Guercino, G.Lanfranco, F.Albani, and others.

Piazza Mattei and Fontana delle Tartarughe (Tortoise Fountain)
Piazza Mattei
00186, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Sant'Angelo (Portico Ottavia-Teatro Marcello) (Roma centro)
Piazza Mattei and Fontana delle Tartarughe (Tortoise Fountain) is Shown By "Map E Zone" As "120"

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