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Trevi Fountain’s Incredible Iconography in Rome Italy

Trevi Fountain

Image via Wikipedia

The Trevi Fountain is the largest baroque fountain in Rome. It is 85 feet high by 65 feet wide.

Here’s a video panorama of the magnificent Trevi Fountain’s iconography and water feature


The water for the fountain came from an ancient pitched Roman aqueduct called Aqua Virgo. The aquedect was contructed by Marcus Agrippa and his engineers in 19 B.C. Agrippa also designed a building at the site of Hadrian’s Pantheon. When that structure was destroyed, the current Pantheon was erected.

The aqueduct is a water supply or channel constructed to convey water and supply that water to Rome. The Acqua Vergine aqueduct also supplies water to many of the other fountains in Rome and supplies Rome with fresh drinking water.

Marcus Agrippa and his engineers are depicted in a bas-relief in the left niche. Look for Agrippa in his Roman military attire approving the design for the aqueduct.

The fountain was creatively incorporated into the facade of the Palazzo Poli using a triumphal arch in1762. The Palazzo Poli has one of the world most important collections of copper engraving plates. The collection represents the 16th century through the present.

Trevi Fountain | © Flickr/Benjamin Watson

Watch this video slide show of the incredible architectural iconography of the Trevi Fountain in Rome


Marcus Agrippa in Rome

In 1629 Pope Urban VIII asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini to generate some ideas for the fountain, but when the Pope died, the project was abandoned. Eventually, a Roman competition was initiated to design the magnificent Baroque fountain.

In 1730 Pope Clement XII (Corsini) organized an architectural competiton. Nicola Salvi initially lost to Alessandro Galilei. Romans were not happy with the verdict because Galilei was a Florentine. So Salvi was eventually awarded the commission. Salvi died in 1751, before the fountain was completed.

The centre niche or exedra framing Oceanus has free-standing columns and Corinthian pilasters.

Oceanus at the Trevi Fountain in Rome

Nicolo Salvi’s Rococo fountain depicts Oceanus (Neptune) driving a cockle-shell chariot pulled by two hippocamps (seahorses).

A Triton blowing into his shell in the Trevi Fountain in Rome

Neptune is flanked by Tritons trying to commandeer the unruly seahorses. One of the mthological tritons (merman) is blowing into a shell as if it were a trumpet.

The two allegorical figures in the niches were done by Filippo Valle (1697-1768) and represent Abundance (holding a basket) located to the left of Neptune and Health (with a spear and a snake) located to the right of Neptune in the triumphal arch.

Abundance spills water from her urn and Salubrity holds a cup from which a snake drinks.

Abundance at the Trevi Fountain in Rome

Since Pope Clement XII commissioned the majestic fountain, his coat of arms adorns the top of the structure between the two allegorical figures.

Pope Clement’s Coat of Arms

The baroque edifice is supported by Corinthian columns crowned with statues of the four seasons.


Work began in 1732, and the fountain was finally completed in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini with Pietro Bracci‘s Oceanus (god of all water) in the central niche. In 1998, the fountain was refurbished. The renovation included cleaning the stonework and installing new re-circulating pumps.

Sit at the fountain and throw a coin over your shoulder.  According to legend, this will ensure a return trip to Rome. It always works for me because I keep coming back to Rome. In 1960, Federico Fellini‘s movie “La Dolce Vita” filmed a famous scene in this fountain.  The film is about a passive journalist’s week in Rome starring Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Italy Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com. Follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook for weekly blog updates.

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