Fontana dell’Acqua Felice – English


The Fountain, also called the fountain of Moses was named in honor of Pope Sixtus V, Felice Peretti: Pope’s intention was to provide water sources in the districts and Quirinal hills and particularly Interior Ministry its vast and sumptuous Villa Montalto, which stretched on both hills. The work began in the third year and finished in the pontificate of Sixtus V 1587.

Historical notes

To this aim was restored the aqueduct of Alexandria, so called from the name of the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, whose reign had been constructed from 222, using water from sources in the “Meadows of the tavern” and Pantanella , not far from Palestrina.

Sixtus V entrusted the project to the architect Giovanni Fontana.

In August of 1586 was analyzed by the apothecaries of Castel Sant’Angelo, was found the best drinking water gushing in Rome. It was the first purpose-built Roman fountains of water such as exhibitions, but its grandeur does not redeem the disharmony between the title and crown, the smallness of the two small obelisks and, of course, the unfortunate outcome of the statue of Moses, even though the fountain should be the main artistic reference, and the two side ridges. It is not improbable that among the causes of the poor quality of the monument may also include a haste that the pope has imposed on the Fountain for the conclusion of the work. Such haste could also justify, among other things, is the confusion already existing in the same era documents that define the niche of the right panel as “Joshua, who led the Jews across the Jordan”, an event quite different from what seems actually depicted, is the use of a balustrade taken from an earlier era monument of Pope Pius IV, without even bothering to delete or cover the name.


Although the work was still unfinished, was finally inaugurated on 15 June 1587 Show the monument designed by Giovanni Fontana, closed with three openings (initially empty) and divided by four Ionic columns, two marble chives and two gray gap in at four stylized Egyptian lions that throw water from his mouth in three adjacent rectangular tanks. The columns support the architrave on which lay the attic surmounted by a shrine containing the papal coat of arms supported by two angels and flanked by two small obelisks (added two years after the inauguration). For the protection of the tanks is a travertine balustrade from a building erected during the pontificate of Pius IV. Most of the travertine comes from the near Baths of Diocletian, “looted” for the occasion, the original lions, two of porphyry and two light marble, came from the Pantheon, where they were found, along with other ornaments, in the excavations during the pontificate Pope Eugene IV (1431 – 1439), and the central entrance of the basilica of St. John Lateran, where he supported the columns beside the door. Transferred to the Vatican Museum in Pope Gregory XVI (1831 – 1846] to extract them from possible damage, were replaced by copies made by the sculptor Adam Tadolini.

The Moses “ridiculous” Moses is depicted in the central niche indicating the waters miraculously sprung from the rock, by Leonardo Sormani, in collaboration with Prospero Antichi, said Bresciano, who was long attributed the exclusivity of the work, with the false legend that, because of the shame he felt for the ugliness of the statue, he committed suicide.

Getting there

It can be reached from the train stopping at the MetroA Republic – Opera.



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