Fontana dell'Acqua Felice

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240px The Fontana dell'Acqua Felice, also called the Fountain of Moses, is a monumental fountain located in the Quirinale District of Rome, Italy. It marked the terminus of the Acqua Felice aqueduct restored by Pope Sixtus V. It was designed by Domenico Fontana and built in 1585-88.


At the beginning the reign of Pope Sixtus V (born Felice Peretti) in 1585, only one of the ancient Roman acqueducts which brought water to the city, the Aqua Vergine, was still being maintained and working. Everyone in Rome who wanted clean drinking water had to go to the single fountain near the site of today's Trevi Fountain. Pope Sixtus took on the responsibility of restoring other acqueducts, including the Acqua Alessandrina, which he renamed Acqua Felice after himself. The new fountain that marked the terminus of the restored aqueduct was the first new monumental wall fountain in Rome since antiquity.

The initial effort to build the aqueduct, by architect Matteo Bartolani, was a failure: Bartolani miscalculated the incline of the channel, so the flow of water was much less than needed reach the Quirinal Hill, the intended site of its terminal fountain. Giovanni Fontana took over the building of the aqueduct, which was completed by June 1587. A fountain was constructed by architect engineer Domenico Fontana in the form of an ancient Roman triumphal arch. It featured, as ancient Roman fountains did, an inscription honoring its builder, Pope Sixtus. beneath angels holding the papal coat of arms. Within each of the three arches were sculptures on Old Testament subjects. The central arch featured a large statue of Moses, made in 1588 by Leonardo Sormani and Prospero da Brescia. To the left is Aaron, sculpted by Giovanni Battista della Porta and to the right is Joshua sculpted by Flaminio Vacca and Pietro Paolo Olivieri. Water flows from the statues into basins, where four lions are spouting water.

File:Moses Acqua felice Roma.jpg
Fontana dell'Acqua Felice, statue of Moses

The statue of Moses was criticized at the time for its large size, not in proportion with the other statuary, but the fountain achieved its political purpose; it was a statement of how the Catholic Church, unlike the Protestant Reformation, was serving the needs of the people of Rome. It also achieved its social purpose of reviving the Quirinal neighborhood; what had been a rustic area of villas was turned into a thriving urban neighborhood by the arrival of a good drinking water supply.




  • Marilyn Symmes, (editor), Fountains, Splash and Spectacle - Water and Design from the Renaissance to the Present. Thames and Hudson, in association with the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and Smithsonian Institution. 1998.