Fountain of Moses

Off the beaten track, the Fountain of Moses is one of the many fountains in Rome designed by Domenico Fontana.

Fontana along with Giacomo della Porta was an architect of St. Peter's Basilica and designed many churches, facades and fountains in the Eternal City.

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  • rome moses statue

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In 1585 Felice Peretti became Pope Sixtus V and was determined to restore Rome to its former glory which had waned after the sack of Rome in 1527. He created an aqueduct whose source lies at the town of Pantano 15 miles away and modestly renamed it the Acqua Felice. Fontana's brother Giovanni (or John) carried out the aqueduct and Domenico was commissioned to create a fountain here at its terminus on the Quirinal hill. It's official name is the Fontana dell' Acqua Felice or the Fountain of the Felice Water.

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Fontana completed the fountain two years in 1587 and further statues were added before the Pope passed away in 1590.

marble statue of moses

The fountain contains three niches with four ionic columns, one on either side.
Above is an architrave with the year of completion inscribed in latin and further above the attic records the Pope who commissioned the work. The attic is surmounted by the Papal family crest with an two angels, two mini obelisks and a crucifix.

rome moses statue

Originally the niches were empty and had no statues until in 1589 Leonardo Sormani and Prospero Antichi added the Moses in the central niche. Moses holds the ten commandments in his left hand and points to the rock where the water sprang forth with his right. The Pope wanted Moses to resemble Michelangelo's Moses in the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli and as a result it has drawn criticism for not living up to the standard of that master.

statue of moses rome

In the left niche is a bas relief showing Aaron Leading the Israelites to Quench their Thirst. After the Jews escaped Egypt and crossed the Reed/Red Sea they needed water and Moses apparently struck a rock with his staff from which water sprang forth [Exodus 17:1-7]. The right niche depicts Joshua Guiding the Soldiers and People of Israel to the Crossing of the Jordan [Joshua 3:1-17]. All three niches contain an Torah/Old Testament based water theme.

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At the bottom of the fountain are four Egyptian lions sculpted by Adamo Tadolini who was the assistant of Antonio Canova. These are copies of lions which sit in the Courtyard of the Pine Cone in the Vatican Museums.

The Fontana Dell' Acqua Felice or Moses Fountain is one of the hidden gems in the Eternal City. If you would like to see it as part of walking or driving tour of the Squares of Rome you can send me an email through the link in the menu.

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