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Garden Fountains: The Fountain at Campidoglio in Rome

If you visit the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome then you’ll find three fountains of interest in this imposing square. These fountains each have a particularly interesting history. They haven’t actually been in place in their current setting for that long but each fountain has had a rich and varied background. In fact, the sculptures you’ll see on these three fountains can trace back their roots to the early days of Christian Rome. The first of the three fountains that you’ll probably notice in the piazza is the central fountain that leads up to the magnificent Palace of the Senators. Although originally planned by Michelangelo when he laid out designs for the piazza, the fountain was only constructed in the reign of Sixtus V who diverted a water supply from the Acqua Felice that could then supply a fountain.

Original plans had decreed that this fountain would contain the figure of Jove as its centerpiece, instead it was built around the figure of Minerva who stands as the figurehead of Rome. Minerva’s statue has partly been restored in modern times but the torso was brought to Rome from Cori so it is actually of great historical significance. In front of the Minerva fountain you’ll find a fountain decorated with the sculptures of two river gods. These statues are actually of significant historical interest – unlike many lost treasures they have survived without burial in all the turbulent times since Rome’s downfall. Initially they were located in front of Aurelian’s Temple of the Sun and they have since moved around various settings in Rome before settling in their current location.

Like the Palace of the Senators before which they stand, much of this fountain is constructed of travertine and this fountain really does meld into the magnificent building seamlessly. You’ll find the third fountain in the Piazza del Campidoglio in the gardens of the Palazzo dei Conservatori. This fountain has barely earned its name as it is actually more of a basin with an unusual sculpture attached. The sculpture, which was added to the square in 1903, shows a lion feasting on a horse that it has hunted down. Although this fountain may not look significant the sculpture itself is of real historical import. If you look closely at the lion you’ll note that it appears to show the effects of being exposed to water for long periods – it was actually discovered in the River Almo more than a thousand years ago although its history before that remains a mystery.


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