Fountains Saint Peter’s Square

Fountain on Saint Peter's Square

There are two fountains in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome. The oldest one was placed there in 1490. After the colonnade had been constructed this fountain had to moved to a different position and a second one had to be constructed in order to obtain the present symmetry.

Fountains Saint Peter’s Square Rome

History and description

Fountains Saint Peter's Square
One of the fountains in Saint Peter’s Square

The first fountain in Saint Peter’s Square already existed in 1490, although it stood in a different, less symmetrically placed location. This fountain, which was restored in 1501, got its water through pipes that were at that time probably one thousand years old.

In 1641 Carlo Maderno, while designing the new facade of Saint Peter’s Basilica itself, also re-designed Piazza San Pietro and its fountain. The top basin was replaced by an upside down cup from which water rains into a bigger bowl. On the facade of the octagonal base, the papal coat of arms can be seen, together with two entwined dolphins. Maderno did not change the position of the fountain.

In 1657 Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the colonnade, which however created the problem that the fountain’s position became incongruous with the rest of the square. One option was to move it to a more central central position, which was impossible because in the meantime Pope Sixtus V had had the obelisk positioned there. The second option was the construction of a second fountain, in order to restore the symmetry.

The solution was found by moving the first fountain to a position in line with the obelisk (1667) and by placing an almost identical one (the papal coat of arms of Pope Clement X, six stars, instead of the one of Paul V) on the south side of . (1677). The second fountain is either attributed to Carlo Fontana or to Bernini himself.

The 10 years difference was caused by a lack of water pressure, which was not solved until the owner of the Lake Bracciano, Flavio Orsini, sold another share of the lake to Pope Clement X. From then on until the mid 20th century, an almost 3m high jet of water squirted out of both fountains. At that point it was reduced and a water recycling system was installed.

Piazza San Pietro – Rome

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