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The fountain of Moses: celebrating the Acqua Felice aqueduct

Fountains Rome

The fountain of Moses: celebrating the Acqua Felice aqueduct


The mountain of Moses, also known as Fontana dell’Acqua Felice, was named after the aqueduct that feeds it, that is, in turn, named after the Pope who commissioned its restoration: Pope Sixtus V, born Felice Peretti.

Starting from 1585, he decided to renew and extend the old Acqua Alessandrina aqueduct, feeding it with water coming from the area of Palestrina.

After a first, disastrous project, that didn’t let an adequate flow of water to be piped, Pope Sixtus resolved to charge Giovanni Fontana with the building; after some research and a few tests, he succeeded in reviving the aqueduct. It was finally possible to bring water to the Quirinal Hill.

This achievement was celebrated with a new, monumental fountain.

The mountain of Moses is therefore placed in the Termini area, close to The Baths of Diocletian, which became furthermore the primary source of material for the realization of the fountain itself. That’s exactly where most of the marble used in the building of the fountain came from.

The fountain was opened in 1587, even if still unfinished. At the time of unveiling, only the architectural part was complete (the three arches, the architrave with the inscription honoring its builder, Pope Sixtus, the columns, etc…), while the decorations where still to be realized. They were only added later on, including the statues placed in the three arches.

The name “fountain of Moses” comes from the statue framed in the middle arch, which represents exactly Moses in the act of pointing water flowing from the rock.

Worthy of note is the unusual Egypt inspiration of the fountain, revealed by the two obelisks in the summit (next to the angels carrying the inscription) and by the four lions at the base.

It maybe can’t be considered one of Rome’s most beautiful fountains, but it marks an important stage in the mastering of water management and definitely represents an interesting aspect of the history of the Eternal City.



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