A Thousand Words
Pietro and Gianlorenzo Bernini's Fontana della Barcaccia
by Mary Elizabeth Podles
The Barcaccia fountain, at the foot of the Spanish Steps in Rome's Piazza di Spagna, is best known as a bustling urban meeting place for young people. It was not always this way. We would hardly recognize the city of Rome in the sixteenth century. In 1570, Pope Nicholas V conceived a plan to put a fountain of potable water in every open space in Rome. In 1598, a disastrous flood brought far too much water here from a nearby bend in the Tiber River; the waters rose so high that a cargo boat was beached at this spot. Thus was born the idea for the Barcaccia, literally the "Big Old Boat" fountain.
Continuing Nicholas's clean water initiative, in 1623 Pope Urban VIII undertook renovations to the Roman aqueduct called the Acqua Vergine. Originally built in 19 b.c., the aqueduct was repaired by Nicholas, and its range was extended by further renovations made under Urban. It feeds the Barcaccia, and, to this day, its waters are drinkable. Unfortunately, the Barcaccia's piazza is very near one of the aqueduct's distribution tanks, so that the water pressure is very low and rules out the more spectacular jets possible to fountains further downhill.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Mary Elizabeth Podles is the retired curator of Renaissance and Baroque art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. She and her husband Leon, a Touchstone senior editor, have six children and live in Baltimore, Maryland.
more on art from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Purchase Print &
Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!
Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!
GIVE Print &
Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives