Little Bits of History

May 22

Posted in History by patriciahysell on May 22, 2017

1762: The Trevi Fountain is officially opened by Pope Clemens XIII. According to legend, in 19 BC some Roman soldiers were guided by a young girl to a source of pure water about eight miles outside the city of Rome. Augustus commissioned a 14-mile long aqueduct to be built, bringing the pure water into the city proper. It was called Aqua Virgo or Virgin Waters as an honorary nod to the young girl. The waters supplied the hot Baths of Agrippa for over 400 years. In 1629, Pope Urban VIII proposed building a new and more dramatic fountain at the site and even asked Bernini to design it. The Pope died and the fountain project was abandoned, at least for a time.

In 1730, Pope Clement XII organized a contest to supply ideas for a new fountain as much of the city was being upgraded in the Baroque style. Alessandro Galilei (a relative of the more famous Galileo, and a Florentine) won, but the Romans were outraged with a Florentine’s win and so the commission was given to runner up, Nicola Salvi. Using Salvi’s plans, work on the massive fountain began in 1732. Salvi died in 1751 and the project was finished with the placement of Pietro Bracci’s Oceanus into the central niche. The fountain was built at the juncture of three roads (hence the name – tre vie). The entire structure rises 86 feet and is 161 feet wide making it the largest Baroque fountain in Rome as well as one of the best known fountains in the world. Most of the Travertine stone used in construction came from Tivoli, 22 miles away.

The backdrop for the fountain is the Palazzo Poli. The palace was given its monumental façade especially as a setting for the fountain. Luigi Vanvitelli’s palace design was altered when the central portion was demolished specifically for the building of the Trevi Fountain. Because of erosion over time, the fountain has been refurbished and in 1998, all the stonework was scrubbed and all cracks were repaired along with other areas of deterioration. Skilled artisans worked to restore the beauty while recirculating pumps were added to the fountain itself.

In January 2014, Fendi (Italian fashion company) announced a plan for more restoration and upgrades. They would sponsor a 20-month program and spend €2.2 million on the project which would be the most comprehensive restoration ever undertaken. Work began in June 2014 and was completed with an official reopening ceremony on November 3, 2015. Part of the upgrades were the installation of more than 100 LED lights to improve the nighttime illumination of the fountain. Throwing coins in the fountain is to be done by using the right hand to toss money over the left shoulder. About €3,000 is thrown into the fountain daily. The retrieved money is used to subsidize food for Rome’s needy.

I love the sounds and the power of pounding water, whether it is the waves or a waterfall. – Mike May

Water is the driving force of all nature. – Leonardo da Vinci

The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. – John W. Gardner

The fall of dropping water wears away the Stone. – Lucretius

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