Piazza Navona is one of the most beautiful Roman squares. It was built on the site of a track where athletic competitions and chariot races were held, also known as the Stadium of Domitian. Although the stadium was paved in the 15th century, its outlines are still visible in places. On its territory there are several interesting architectural landmarks – three wonderful fountains and the church of St. Agnes.
Description: Piazza Nanova /picture source: Shutterstock/;
The most beautiful of the three fountains is the Fountain of the Four Rivers. It was created by Lorenzo Bernini in 1651 by order of Pope Innocent X. It consists of four large statues that rest on a rock rising from a circular basin. Each of the statues is an allegory of one of the four largest rivers in the world – the Ganges, the Danube, the Rio de la Plata and the Nile. Each statue also represents one of the four continents known at the time.
Description: the Fountain of the Four Rivers /picture source: Shutterstock/;
Although the genius Bernini created the design for this impressive fountain, the statues themselves were the work of his students. Europe is represented by the river Danube, whose figure is the work of Antonio Raghi. The male figure holds the papal coat of arms in his hands and is accompanied by a horse. Asia is represented by the Ganges. The male figure here holds an oar in his hands, which symbolizes the buoyancy of the river. A snake accompanies her. The allegorical figure of the Ganges was created by Claude Poussin. Africa is represented by the Nile. The figure was created by Giacomo Fancini. Her face is covered with a cloth due to the fact that at that time the source of the river had not yet been discovered. It is surrounded by a lion and a palm tree. Finally, the American continent is represented by the Rio de la Plata. The figure is the work of Federico Baratta. Coins symbolizing the wealth of the continent are placed next to it.
Description: St. Agnes church /picture source: Shutterstock/;
An important element of the fountain is the obelisk that rises in its center. This obelisk is not Egyptian, but was made in Rome. He was part of Maxentius’ Circus for a long time. It is 34 m high and a dove is placed on its top. It is part of the coat of arms of the aristocratic Italian family Doria Pamphili. The coat of arms can also be seen on the facade of the St. Agnes Church on the square, which is still owned by the family to this day. The dove was supposed to symbolize the papal family, but that was not the only association made with it. This animal reminded believers that it was a dove carrying an olive branch that signaled to Noah that the flood that had flooded the earth had begun to recede and that it could be inhabited again.
The other two fountains in the square are the Fountain of Neptune and the Fountain of the Moor. The Fountain of Neptune is located in the northern part. It was created in 1574. by Giacomo della Porta. At first it was known as the Kettlemakers’ Fountain, because the street in which their shops were located was nearby. Then the fountain had a radically different look than it does today. Missing are the statues and the upper basin. For nearly 300 years, only the lower basin and the upper part were built, but without any figures. A sculpture of Neptune fighting an octopus was installed in 1878. Later, the eight sea creatures were also added to fit the theme of the other fountains in the square. The Moor’s Fountain rises in the southern part of Piazza Navona. The fountain consists of a figure of an African (Moor) standing on a shell and fighting a dolphin. Around it are placed the statues of four tritons. The original statues are kept in the Borghese Gallery and have been replaced by replicas.
Description: Neptune fountain /picture source: Shutterstock/;
St. Agnes Church is located directly opposite the Fountain of the Four Rivers. It was built at the end of the 17th century by order of Pope Innocent Tenth on the place where the martyr Agnes showed her courage. Agneta was born in 291. in a Christian family in Rome. When she was twenty years old, massive persecutions of Christians began during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. There are different versions of how she died, but one thing is certain, that until the very end she demonstrated steadfastness and devotion to the faith. The martyr’s skull is kept inside the church.
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