Navone Square is situated in the ancient Rome
where there was the Domiziano stadium (275 metres long, wide 106, 30,000 spectators), it was built by Domiziano emperor in the 85 d.C. and in the III century it was restored from Alessandro il Severo. The rich stage was decorated with statues, one of them is Pasquino’s (perhaps a copy of the hellenistic parchement group that seems the representative Menelao which supports the body of Patroclo), nowadays in the same square next to Place Navone.
Since it was a stage and not a circus, there weren’t the carceres (gates from which horses from race went out) neither the thorn (the wall around horses ran) like for example the Maximum Circus, it was all free and used for athletes races. The obelisk that nowadays is in the centre of the square wasn’t there, but it comes from the Massenzio circus, on via Appia. In fact the square was built in monumental style according to the wish of Pope Innocenzo X, the Pamphili family.
The name of the square was originally "in agone", with reference to the naval fights (agones) which took place there and for which the square came purposely flooded: there were some simulations of battles effectively fought that attracted a great public, and the memory survives also in the names of the roads that lead to the square, (for example the Corsia Agonale between the square and Renaissance Course). During the years, the name has been object of the popular crippling, at first in agone, then nagone until navona, clear assonance with the large "employed ships" for those shows.
Between 1810 and 1839 in the square there were some jockey races, races of ridden horses (but they did not have relationship with the most famous races of the berbers on via del Corso).
Navona square is the pride of the Roman baroque, with architectonic and sculptural elements of masters like Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Fountain of the Four Rivers in the centre of the square, which represents the Danube, the Gange, the Nilo and the River of the Plata, so the four angles of the Earth), Francesco Borromini and Girolamo Rainaldi (Sant' Agnese in Agone, in front of the fountain of Bernini) and Pietro from Cortona (frescoes author of Pamphili Palace gallery).
The square had to celebrate the grateness of the Pamphili family (in a sort of competition with Barberini’s and Farnese’s) and Innocenzo X wanted that there would be built the same palace and the square would be decorated with works of huge value. For the rearrangement of the area there was the demolition of some districts, while the competition for the award of the store clerks was fought between the main architects of the time; an important role in the choice of artists was played also from the powerful Donna Olimpia Maidalchini (influential and unwrapped Pope’s sister-in-law), to which it is said as an example that Bernini had given a model in silver of his plan of fountain, but in others opinion she chose Borromini in order to replace Rainaldi in the completion of the church that remembers the martyrdom that the Saint would have endured just in that part of the square.
The most famous legend about the presumed rivalry between Bernini and Borromini suggests that to the two of the four statues of the rivers, the malignant Bernini wanted to grant special protections against the work of the adversary: to Nilo a bandage on the head to escape from the unfortunate vision of the Church facade and to the River of the Plata a hand in order to repair itself from the imminent landslide. But the belief isn’t sure, since the fountain was realized before the church and Nilo has got the head bandaged because to the time they had not still discovered its sources. Instead it is true on the church facade, the statue of Sant' Agnese has a position opening many possible interpretations, between which that the famous hand on the chest, with the expression to the face, is sign of abashment for the fountain.
The sculpture, called fountain of the Four Rivers, is made up of a base composed by a great elliptic bathtub, with a great marmorean group, on whose top there is an Egyptian obelisk ("Obelisco Agonale") of roman age, found in 1647 in the circus of Massenzio on the via Appia.
The statues composing the fountain have a greater dimension of the real one. The nudes represent the allegories of the four main rivers of the Earth (Nilo, Gange, the Danube and Rio of the Plata), one for everyone of the known continents, and in the work they are some marble giants leaned on a travertine rock.
The trees and the plants emerging from the water between cliffs appear bigger. The animal and vegetal creatures, generated from a good and useful nature, belong to important and powerful races. Turning around the big fountain, the spectator can discover new or particular shapes that before were hidden or nearly covered by the rocks. With this fountain Bernini wants to provoke wonder in those who watch it, composing a small universe in movement to imitate the space of natural truth.
It is a landscape in which the painting element emerges, with the rock, with the gorge from which a wild animal goes out or on which there is a climbing plant. In this work Bernini obtains true atmospheric feelings: in fact an impetuous wind hits the palm plant, whose leafage hits against the cliff, moves the mane of the horse and whistles between the gorges of the cliff.
When the work was finished, Bernini wanted to give color to cliffs, to the palm, to the peonies, in order to make them to seem of gold. Therefore, to the illusionism of the entirety, there was also a vivid element.
The contemporary men of letters and poets expressed their astonishment for the fountain so extraordinary, emphasizing the impression of the capricious one and in some part even the exotic one that the sculpture communicates to whom observes it. Bernini, more than in the other fountains, gives value to the water like the essential element of the sculpture.
The design of the four naked colossus which are allegories of the rivers goes back to the ancient period. Bernini giants move in full gestures of life and with an uncontrollable expressive emotion. On the ancient one, it is very important the invention of the capricious. Therefore the Danube indicates the Pamphili’s coat-of-arms and the Nilo covers its face with a drapery, making reference to the dusk of its sources, unknown until the end of the century XIX. The sculptor searches a more careful study of the movements and the expressions , that the artist changes.
In the planning of the fountain, Bernini wanted to know and to keep in mind the meaning of the symbology placed in the egyptien obelisk to its centre. In order to decipher the present registrations on the four faces he obtained the collaboration of Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit, learned humanist, operating in those years in Rome; surely he influenced the sculptor with the theories of neoplatonism and the references to the Egyptian and Chaldea wisdom, the Hebraic cabala, and many others cultural fields connected each other from the common gnostic-sapiential origin: we find all these elements in the symbolic shape in the fountain, that is a prosecution of symbologies on the stele. Like other humanist before him, Kircher believed in a sapiential continuity of a line coming from the ancient Egypt and the mosaic tradition, through the Greek-Persian culture in order to reach the Christianity’s origins.
In the fountain we can see four different thematic groups:
Tetrade (the added consecutive numbers from 1 to 4), numerical symbol of platonic and Pythagorean-neoplatonic matrix, of difficult understanding, it is linked to the perfection of the divine creation; it is represented from the pyramidal shape of the stele, the pyramid being one of the representations of the tetrade.
The dichotomic polarity. Speculative shape of gnostic and Manichea origin, it takes place in the fountain under shape of opposites couple, sending back to the beginning couple of good/evil. The most obvious couples are:
Light/Darkness: the main sense group linked to the same shape of the obelisk, sending back to a light beam, placed in opposite way to the darkness represented by the cavern under the stele. In particular, this line of thought comes from the emanationism of Plotino and Cusano.
Fullness/Dryness: dialectic in the Egyptian and the mosaic tradition (Biblical episode of the lean cows and fat cows). The lion of the fountain lapping on the water with the tongue, modeled on the statues of Moptha, the god lion, during the Egyptian time with the function of "nilometre", symbolizes the alternation plenty/scarcity due to the floods of Nilo. The scarcity, the destruction, is represented by the hippopotamus, replaced in the fountain, with a linguistic stratagem, from the horse (hippopotamus=horse of river), Typhoon symbol, the barren wind that destroys the harvests.
The egg of Zoroastro. Cosmological outline of ellipsoidal shape, representing the action in the cosmogony of the opposite principles of light and shadow. The plant of the fountain traces the egg’s morphology: from this it resumes the ellipsoidal course and the positioning of the sun/obelisk, in the centre. To the egg of Zoroastro other symbologies are linked to the dichotomy light/darkness.
The colombe. At the same time symbol of the Saint Spirit and the pope Innocenzo X Pamphili’s coat-of-arms, who had ordered the fountain, it wants to emphasize how the apex of the wisdom enclosed in the fountain symbology, coming from hermetic Egypt and from the zoroastrian Persia, it is the Christian detection, put in the substantial continuity with those ancient shapes of gnosis.
On the fountain there have been represented seven animals, beyond to the small colombe and the dolphins in the Pamphili’s coat-of-arms. In order to find them we must turn around the fountain and there are: a horse, an earth snake (in the higher part close to the obelisk), a sea snake, a dolphin (than also swallows water), a crocodile, a lion and a dragon. It is also remarkable the yield of the carved plants which seem real.
Navona square has also other two fountains: the Fountain of Moro in the north part of the square, and the Fountain of Nettuno (originally fountain of Calderari), situated in the south part.
The name fountain of Moro belongs to the representation of an ethiopian fighting with a dolphin, a group carved on the Bernini’s design in 1654 d.C. from Giovanni Antonio Mari, expressed by Innocenzo X’s sister-in-law, Olimpia Maidalchini in order to complete the polylobate basin of Giacomo della Porta, put down in the square by the Pope Gregorio XIII in 1576.
Coming from the tritons and the masks adorning the river basin, the greater parts of the sculptural equipment are some copies of the original today placed in some fountains of the garden of Villa Borghese. At first, in particular the group of the masks was carved by Giacomo della Porta for the fountain in square del Popolo and only in 1823 Valadier placed them in the fountain of Moro.
The fountain of Nettuno already Fountain of Calderari mustn’t be confused with the same fountain of Nettuno of Giuseppe Valadier in square del Popolo. That one in Navona square was built in 1576 on Giacomo della Porta’s designs, author of the bathtub of the fountain of Moro, situated in the opposite side of the square.
It obtained the actual name as a result of the added two sculptural groups, "the Neredei with putti and sea horses" by Gregorio Zappalà and "Neptune fights against an octopus" by Antonio della Bitta, happened at the end of ‘800 in order to create a stylistic consonance with the other two fountains in Navona square.

Rome Your Home © 2007 Copyright - created by paolo tota