Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

by Protima Daryanani

Bernini's   Fountain of the Four Rivers  in Rome.

Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers in Rome.

Commissioned by Pope Innocent X in the 1600s, the Fountain of the Four Rivers is located in Piazza Navona, the ancient stadium of the Emperor Domitian and the site of the palace of the Pamphilis, the pope's family. Surrounded by an ancient obelisk with a dove on the top to signify not only the Holy Spirit but also conveniently the Pamphili family emblem, the fountain depicts pagan gods of the four great rivers in the four continents as then recognized by the Renaissance geographers: the Nile in Africa, the Ganges in Asia, the Danube in Europe and the Río de la Plata in America. The sculpture pictured above represents the Río de la Plata and the Americas, and the coins represent the wealth they perceived would be found in the Americas. The size and placement of the sculptures on the fountain lead the viewer in a circular motion, as there is not one position that offers a view of the entire fountain. Although it's my favorite fountain in Rome, I respectfully managed to refrain from getting in and taking a swim.