The Piazza Navona is one of Rome's most famous squares. It
occupies the former site of the Circus of Domitian, which explains the
stretched oval shape of the piazza.
The Piazza is known
for the Bernini masterpiece the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei
Quattro Fiumi - 17th century), which is shown above and below. The
installation is crowned with Obelisk of Domitian (cut in Egypt
during the 1st century AD) that was incorporated into the fountain's
design as reminder of the historic links
Emperor, his Circus and Piazza Navona.
The human statues in
Bernini's elegant fountain
represent four rivers that in turn were used to symbolize the world's continents.
photograph to the left (above) shows a statue symbolizing the Ganges and the
continent of Asia. The photograph on the right identifies the Nile,
representing Africa. It is said that since the source (head) of the
Nile was unknown at the time that Bernini's design required that the
statue be created showing the head covered to indicate an unknown
source. Others have suggested that Bernini did not want his statue
to look at the adjacent facade of the Church Sant'Agnese, which was
designed by Borromini, a contemporary who was disliked by
Bernini (and who had originally received the commission to create a
fountain in this location).
In the photograph at the top of this page, the statue with its back
to you (in the center) represents the Danube representing Europe and the figure
to the left symbolizes the Rio de la Plata and the Americas.