Piazza Navona - Square With 3 Fountains: Fiumi (Rivers), Moro (Moor) & Nettuno (Neptune)

"Piazza Navona - Square With 3 Fountains: Fiumi (Rivers), Moro (Moor) & Nettuno (Neptune)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Sunday 17th July 2011

obelisk of Navona square (Obelisco di piazza Navona), Rome

The square repeats in its dimensions and form the Stadio di Domiziano (Stadium of Domitian) built here in 86 close to the Baths of Nero. On the site of present Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne stood another impressive construction of Domitian, Odeon. It is probable also, that between Piazza Navona and Tiber was located Naumacchia di Domiziano built for the water performances that could not be carried on in the Colosseum anymore, because the same Domitian built the service area under its arena. This gives another probable source of the name of the famous square: "nave" (ship), and not "agone" (contest, sport competition).

Piazza Navona square - aerial view
The Stadium of Domitian was completely made of travertine, had different rows of balustrades and was decorated with the statues. Its width was 54m, length 276m; height 34m; and its capacity was 30,000 spectators. The stadium was built for the sport competitions and horse-races. In 222-235 Alexander Severus restored it, and a century later Costantio II transferred all the marble decorations in Constantinople. Nevertheless, it is thought that by the fall of the Roman empire the stadium was still in use.

In the Dark Ages the construction was abandoned and destroyed. In 1250 the square, remained after it, had seen the first houses of nobility, and in the 15th century the Spanish built here their hospice. A historian of the Jubilee of 1450 noted that the square still had a big part of the steps of the stadium. Cardinal Estouteville had the market from Campidoglio transferred here in 1477 (till 1869, when it was moved to Campo de' Fiori); it happened in course of pope's program about the new city center rising around the new pontifical residence in Vatican. Thus, the square became one of the most animated sites of Rome, with its market, popular games, processions, battles and tourneys. In the end of the 16th century Gregory XIII had two fountains, by G.Della Porta, placed on the ends of the square; in the center was erected a drinking through.

In 1644 a pope Pamphili, Innocent X, came to the rule. He had his family houses on the square and ordered baroque transformations and embellishment of Piazza Navona to G.L.Bernini, F.Borromini, G.Rainaldi, P.da Cortona. They created a great palace, a church and the fountains.

The ambititions of a single family, The Pamphilj, engendered this remarkable change. Pope Innocent X (1644-55) sought to proclaim his family's identity through a building program, including the monumental palace, church of S. Agnese in Agone, Collegio Innocenziano (College of Innocent), and Gianlorenzo Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers and Fountain of the Moor. The Pamphilj endowed the entire urban space with its indelible presence.

The water from the Fontana dei Fiumi was used for the artificial lake made here every week-end during the summer for refreshment of the horses of the noble carriages and for the entertainment of the people in the 17th-19th centuries.

The square was closed for the traffic in 1967. Festivals, races and jousts took place through the centuries in the square. Since the 17th century until mid-19th century, on Saturdays and Sundays of August the square, at the time with a hollow ground, was partially flooded and naumachias took place here. Today, during the Epiphany, there is a market selling crib figurines, games and sweets. A Christmas market is held in the piazza. The beautiful Palazzo Braschi, Palazzo de Cupis and Palazzo Torres Massimo Lancellotti also grace this piazza.

Three Fountains In Navona Square

Three fountains decorate the square: the Fontana del Moro, so called for the statue of the Moor fighting a dolphin; the Fontana dei Fiumi, one of the most beautiful and fanciful works by Bernini; the Fontana de' Calderari, aka the Fontana del Nettuno.

Fontana dei Fiumi (Fountain of Rivers)

Fontana dei Fiumi (Fountain of Rivers) was created in the same period with the church S.Agnese and Palazzo Pamphilj (Pamphili). G.L.Bernini decided to put in its center an ancient obelisk to make it even more splendid. The obelisk was taken from Circus of Maxentius in Via Appia. It is not known when it was brought in Rome. The hieroglyphics reveal a dedication of emperor Domitian to his father Vespasian and his brother Titus. It is 16m high and has on the top a bronze dove, symbol of the Pamphili, which is nearly 2m high. The statues of the rivers were sculptured by the pupils of Bernini: Giacomo Antonio Fancelli, Claudio Poussin, A.Raggi and F.Baratta. They embody four major rivers: Danube, Nile (with the covered head, meaning unknown in those times the source of it), Ganges and Plate (with the raising hand), representing Europe, Africa, Asia and America.
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The Nile has the particularity that the head is veiled, alluding to the fact that the location of its springs was still unknown in the seventeenth century, while the Rio de la Plata presents coins scattered on it side, symbol of the richness of the American territories.
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The cliff is rich in flowers, fruits, animals. A snake is placed on the top of the base, the foliage of a wonderful palm-tree seems to be swept by the wind, a horse and a lion come out of the rocky cavity, while two dauphins are immersed in the circular basin. The coat of arms of the Pamphilj family, a dove with an olive branch in its beak decorates the sides of the base and the top of the obelisk. The fountain was unveiled in 1651.

Fontana del Moro (Fountain of The Moor)

It was also projected by G.L.Bernini, conceived to make more imposing a beautiful basin with the four Tritons, which Gregory XIII ordered to G.Della Porta in 1575. The statue of Moro (1653) was placed in the middle and was executed by Giovan Antonio Mari.
Fontana del Moro (Fountain of The Moor) -3.jpg
Innocent the Tenth Pamphilj (1644-1655) commissioned the renovation of the sixteenth century fountain to Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who built a pool that followed the design of the previous pond. A statue sculpted by Giannantonio Mari and designed by Bernini was placed at the centre of the pond in 1655. It represents a moor holding a dauphin’s tail in his hands and with the dauphin’s head coming out from between the leg’s of the statue and pouring water.
Fontana del Moro (Fountain of The Moor) - Piazza Navona Fontana del Moro (Fountain of The Moor) - 2.jpg
The original 16th century statues of Tritons were replaced by copies by Luigi Amici in 1874, and in 1909 the originals moved to the Giardino del Lago in Villa Borghese.

The Moro was preferred to a group called “della lumaca” (of the snail), consisting of two dauphins that supported a sea-shell. The latter design did not meet the approval of Olimpia Maidalchini, Innocent the Tenth’s sister in law, and was placed in Villa Pamphilj, where it still is today. Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli dedicated one of his first sonnets Er Moro de Piazza Navona to this fountain.

Fontana del Nettuno (fountain of Neptune)/ Fontana dei Calderari (Fountain of Coppersmiths)

The fountain was formerly called Fontana dei calderari (Fountain of the Coppersmiths) and contains a polygonal tank and basin. Because it was located close to a small alley with blacksmith's workshops, makers of pots and pans and of other metal based businesses and merchants that sold copper vessels in the nearby Piazza Sant’Apollinare. Some says; the name of the fountain derives from the close Via dei Calderari, on which the work-shops of these sculptors were located.
Fontana del Nettuno (fountain of Neptune) or Fontana dei Calderari (Fountain of Coppersmiths).jpg Fontana del Nettuno (fountain of Neptune) - image 1.jpg
The basin of this fountain was executed by G.Della Porta in the end of the 16th century, but it received present decorations with statues in 1878: "Neptune" is by Antonio Della Bitta, "Nereids" are by Gregorio Zappala'. The sculptural decoration was made only in 1873 in order to balance the statuary of the Moor Fountain on the south side of the piazza and of the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) at its centre, when the central figure of Neptune in the act of piercing an octopus was commissioned to Antonio della Bitta, who after many disputes won a competition advertised by the Municipality. Instead the sea-horses held by youngsters, the mermaids, sea-monsters, putt, and the animals around the portasanta basin are also eighteenth century works by Antonio Zappalà from Messina.
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Piazza Navona - Featured In Literature and films

Piazza Navona Square With 3 Fountains: Fiumi (Rivers), Moro (Moor) & Nettuno (Neptune)
00186, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Parione (Navona-Campo de' Fiori) (Roma centro)
Piazza Navona Square With 3 Fountains: Fiumi (Rivers), Moro (Moor) & Nettuno (Neptune) is Shown By "Map H Zone" As "54"
Bus: 70 - 81 - 87 - 116 - 116T - 186 - 492 - 628 - 204 (fest)
Also See: Sagrestia del Borromini (Borromini Sacristy)

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