A Genuine Roman Wonder: The Santa Maria Fountain in Cosmedin

twf006__93672.jpg Archaeologists and restorers on the lookout for pagan and Christian relics in Rome have stumbled upon a wealth of them in the area of the Santa Maria in Cosmedin. The famed marble sculpture called the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) can be seen in the portico of the basilica nearby. Built in 1719, the Santa Maria in Cosmedin water fountain was relatively unknown and located far from sight making it hard to visit. It was said that there was nothing worth seeing in this area because it was bleak and desolate making it an unfriendly place to visit. It was a this time that Pope Clement XI commissioned the Italian architect Carlo Bizzaccheri to put up a fountain to modernize the square outside the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. August 11, 1717 marked the date when work on the church’s foundation started. The blessing of the first stone to be placed in the foundation was followed by medals being tossed in bearing the images of the Blessed Virgin, for whom the church is named, and St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of water.

Roman Water Fountains: Michelangelo’s Masterpieces

Two Florentine artists by the names of Michelangelo and Ammannati designed the oldest Roman wall fountains during the 16th century.

The fountain in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome, which was finished in 1536 and became part of the façade of the Palazzo Senatorio, was Michelangelo’s first design. Built some years later, a conduit from the Aqua Felice was added which carried water into the Capitol permitting a greater water display. Anticipating this, Michelangelo had added a more sizable basin styled on the late Cinquecento.

Was the famed maestro the mastermind of the wall fountain? The maestro's designs truly impacted the future style of fountains in Italy. Today, this structural look is found at the Fountain of the River Gods at the Villa Lante, Bagnaia 1, and the Fountain of the Mugnone arranged among the stairs on the principal axis of the Villa Pratolino.

Rather than designing fountains based on his own brilliance, Michelangelo was fated to integrating conventional elements into Roman-styled structures. A new fountain at the top of the Belvedere in the Vatican was commissioned by Julius III (1550-1555) and it fell to the great artist to create an archetypal structure. A marble figure of Moses striking a stone streaming water was to be built as decoration for the fountain. Unfortunately for the sculptor, this concept was denied because it would take a lot of time to build and a classical statue of Cleopatra was used instead. A design by the well-known artist was thought to be too time-consuming, therefore, an ancient figure placed above the fountain seemed to be a better option.

The Importance of Water Elements in Japanese Gardens

No Japanese garden is complete without a water element. The Japanese water fountain is considered representative of spiritual and physical purifying, so it is customarily placed in or near the doorways of temples or homes. Since water is the most important component of any Japanese fountain, the design is generally simple.

Bamboo is a common material to use for spouts and therefore often added into water fountains. Underneath the bamboo spout is usually a stone basin which receives the water as it flows down from the spout. It should have a worn-down, weathered appearance as well. People want their fountain to look as natural as possible, so they place plants, flowers, and stones around the fountain. Clearly this fountain is much more than just a pretty add-on.

If you want to get a bit more imaginative, try a stone fountain decorated with live bamboo and other natural elements placed on a bed of gravel. Eventually moss begins to creep over the stones and cover them, and as that happens the area starts to look more and more like a natural part of the landscape.

Larger water features can be developed if there is enough open land. Lots of people add a koi pond or a little stream as a final touch.

Water, however, does not have to be used in a Japanese fountain. Beautiful rocks, sand, or gravel are good alternatives to actual water, as they can be used to represent the water. The semblance of a creek with running water can also be achieved by putting flat stones very closely together.


A Brief History of Garden Fountains
The water from springs and other sources was initially delivered to the citizens of nearby towns and cities through water fountains, whose purpose was mainly practical, not aesthetic. In the years before electrical... read more
The Original Public Water Fountains
The water from creeks and other sources was initially delivered to the occupants of nearby communities and cities via water fountains, whose purpose was primarily practical, not artistic. To generate water flow through a fountain... read more
The First Water Garden Fountains recorded in Human History.
Towns and communities relied on functional water fountains to channel water for preparing food, washing, and cleaning up from local sources like lakes, channels, or creeks. The force of gravity was the power supply of water fountains up until the end of... read more