The Four Rivers Fountain by Bernini

The Four Rivers Fountains sits right in the middle of Piazza Navona, in the Centro Storico of Rome, work of Bernini’s genius. The impressive fountain faces the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, which was constructed by Borromini, Bernini’s eternal rival!
Hence, in the middle of the Baroque era, Pope Innocenzo X commissioned Bernini the construction of a fountain to give the square a new amazing aspect! On June 12th 1651 the Four Rivers Fountain was completed and showed to the public. The work left the public astonished!

Credits: image by @pcdazero
Location: in the Piazza Navona
Tickets: Not Needed
Accessibility: Accessible
Kid-friendly Attraction

Features and Meaning of the Fountain

The Four colossal figures seated in contrasting poses represent the four great rivers: the Nile, the Ganges, the Rio de la Plata and the Danube. On top of the fountain rises a bronze dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit and emblem of Pope Innocenzo X patron of the work. The Fountain clearly intended to celebrate the supremacy of the Papacy over the world, represented by the four rivers crossing the continents known at the time: Europe, America, Asia and Africa.
In the middle of the fountain there’s an ancient obelisk brought there from the Circus of Maxentius along the ancient Appian Way.

Features and Meaning of the Fountain

The the head of the sculpture representing the Nile river is covered with a veil since the sources of the river were unknown. On the left there’s a palm tree and you can clearly spot the head of lion drinking from the fountain.

Credits: image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France – Fontaine de la piazza Navona (Rome), CC BY 2.0, Link

The Ganges is holding an oar to symbolize the navigability of the river.

The Danube can be recognized from the crown of flowers and from the horse rising from the stone.

Credits: image by SailkoOwn work, CC BY 2.5, Link

Eventually, the Rio del la Plata shows a terrified expression. Some says that the expression is caused by the snake laying on a rock, cherishing a treasure of coins. Other say that the Rio de la Plata is covering his face from the Church of Sant’Agnese built by Borromini because Bernini thought it was ugly.