The First Outdoor Fountains

The water from rivers and other sources was originally delivered to the citizens of nearby communities and cities via water fountains, whose design was mainly practical, not aesthetic. A supply of water higher in elevation than the fountain was required to pressurize the flow and send water squirting from the fountain's nozzle, a system without equal until the late 19th century. Typically used as monuments and commemorative structures, water fountains have influenced men and women from all over the world all through the ages. Crude in style, the first water fountains did not appear much like present fountains. Designed for drinking water and ceremonial functions, the first fountains were simple carved stone basins. ba-10102__57788.jpg Stone basins are believed to have been 1st used around 2000 BC. Early fountains used in ancient civilizations relied on gravity to manipulate the circulation of water through the fountain. Located near aqueducts or springs, the functional public water fountains supplied the local citizens with fresh drinking water. The people of Rome began creating elaborate fountains in 6 BC, most of which were bronze or natural stone masks of wildlife and mythological representations. The remarkable aqueducts of Rome furnished water to the spectacular public fountains, most of which you can travel to today.

A Magnificent Example of Roman Talent: The Santa Maria in Cosmedin Fountain

Archaeologists and restorers alike have stumbled upon a treasure trove of pagan and Christian artifacts on the grounds of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome. The nearby basilica is mainly renowned for the marble sculpture known as the Bocca della Verità, (Mouth of Truth) located in its portico. When the Santa Maria in Cosmedin fountain was built in 1719, it was off the beaten track and mostly unknown as a result. Since the nearby area was depressing and mostly abandoned, people were not particularly interested in visiting it. It was then that the Italian architect Carlo Bizzaccheri was mandated by Pope Clement XI to build a fountain in the square outside the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in an effort to make the area more popular. The task of laying down the church’s foundation began on August 17, 1717. The first stone to be placed in the foundation was blessed and medallions bearing the images of the Blessed Virgin, for whom the church is named, and St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of water, were also tossed in.

Roman Water Fountains: Michelangelo’s Masterpieces

Two Florentine sculptors 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 completed in 1536 and became part of the façade of the Palazzo Senatorio, was Michelangelo’s first design. The construction of a conduit from the Aqua Felice to the Capitol, which allowed for a more spectacular water display, was included years later. Michelangelo had expected this, however, and built a bigger basin styled on the art of the late Cinquecento.

Was the famed maestro the mastermind of the wall fountain? Italy’s fountains truly show the effect his designs had on the styles seen there. 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 primary axis of the Villa Pratolino.

Michelangelo’s unique talent was put aside because he was forced to design fountains uniting classical elements and a Roman style. Julius III (1550-1555) decided to have a fountain erected at the top of the Belvedere in the Vatican and commissioned the Florentine artist to design a special wall fountain. The fountain was to be adorned with a marble depiction of Moses hitting a stone from which water flowed. Rather than making the Moses sculpture, which would take too much time to complete, an antique figure of Cleopatra was used in its place, however. Creating a new design by the renown sculptor was considered more complicated than placing an ancient figure above the fountain.


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