Rome’s Ingenious Water Delivery Systems

p-685__93924.jpg Previous to 273, when the first elevated aqueduct, Aqua Anio Vetus, was established in Roma, citizens who resided on hillsides had to go even further down to get their water from natural sources. When aqueducts or springs weren’t easily accessible, people living at higher elevations turned to water pulled from underground or rainwater, which was made available by wells and cisterns. To provide water to Pincian Hill in the early sixteenth century, they applied the emerging tactic of redirecting the circulation from the Acqua Vergine aqueduct’s underground channel. The aqueduct’s channel was made reachable by pozzi, or manholes, that were situated along its length when it was initially engineered. While these manholes were created to make it much easier to conserve the aqueduct, it was also possible to use buckets to remove water from the channel, which was carried out by Cardinal Marcello Crescenzi from the time he purchased the property in 1543 to his death in 1552. Reportedly, the rainwater cistern on his property wasn’t sufficient to meet his needs. That is when he decided to create an access point to the aqueduct that ran underneath his residence.

Where did Large Garden Fountains Begin?

A fountain, an amazing piece of engineering, not only supplies drinking water as it pours into a basin, it can also propel water high into the air for an extraordinary effect.

From the beginning, outdoor fountains were simply meant to serve as functional elements.

Water fountains were linked to a spring or aqueduct to provide drinkable water as well as bathing water for cities, townships and villages. Used until the nineteenth century, in order for fountains to flow or shoot up into the air, their origin of water such as reservoirs or aqueducts, had to be higher than the water fountain in order to benefit from gravity. Serving as an element of decoration and celebration, fountains also supplied clean, fresh drinking water. Bronze or stone masks of animals and heroes were frequently seen on Roman fountains. To depict the gardens of paradise, Muslim and Moorish garden planners of the Middle Ages added fountains to their designs. The fountains found in the Gardens of Versailles were meant to show the power over nature held by King Louis XIV of France. The Romans of the 17th and 18th centuries manufactured baroque decorative fountains to exalt the Popes who commissioned them as well as to mark the location where the restored Roman aqueducts entered the city.

Urban fountains built at the end of the 19th century served only as decorative and celebratory ornaments since indoor plumbing provided the essential drinking water. Gravity was substituted by mechanical pumps in order to enable fountains to bring in clean water and allow for amazing water displays.

Contemporary fountains are used to adorn public spaces, honor individuals or events, and enrich recreational and entertainment events.

Fountains Having Various Levels

Fountains with multiple tiers can be found just about anywhere and have been featured in gardens for many years. You can find many of these fountains in Italy, Spain, and other Southern European nations. Typical places to see them are in courtyards and piazzas. Tiered fountains come in a wide range of designs, from elaborately carved styles to relatively simple types.

While they can be found just about anywhere, they seem particularly at home in more classic environments. The fountain should blend right into the environment as if it has been there since the beginning.

Rome, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, And Statuary Fountains

There are many famous Roman water features in its city center. One of the best ever sculptors and artists of the 17th century, Gian Lorenzo Bernini fashioned, created and built almost all of them. Also a city architect, he had skills as a water feature developer, and remnants of his life's work are apparent throughout the streets of Rome. Ultimately moving to Rome to totally express their artwork, primarily in the shape of public water features, Bernini’s father, a famed Florentine sculptor, mentored his young son. The young Bernini was an great worker and received compliments and patronage of significant artists as well as popes. Initially he was recognized for his sculpting skills. An authority in ancient Greek engineering, he used this knowledge as a platform and melded it seamlessly with Roman marble, most notably in the Vatican. Though a variety of artists impacted his artistic endeavors, Michelangelo inspired him the most.

At What Point Did Water Features Originate?

The translation of hundreds of classic Greek texts into Latin was commissioned by the scholarly Pope Nicholas V who ruled the Church in Rome from 1397 until 1455. He undertook the embellishment of Rome to turn it into the model capital of the Christian world.

At the bidding of the Pope, the Aqua Vergine, a ruined aqueduct which had transported clean drinking water into Rome from eight miles away, was renovated starting in 1453. The ancient Roman tradition of building an imposing commemorative fountain at the point where an aqueduct arrived, also known as a mostra, was revived by Nicholas V. The architect Leon Battista Alberti was commissioned by the Pope to construct a wall fountain where we now see the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain as well as the well-known baroque fountains found in the Piazza del Popolo and the Piazza Navona were eventually supplied with water from the altered aqueduct he had reconstructed.

Roman Water Fountains: Michelangelo’s Masterpieces

Michelangelo and Ammannati, two renowned Florentine artists, made the first Roman wall fountains during the 16th century. Michelangelo’s first fountain was unveiled in 1536 in the Piazza del Campidoglio in Rome and makes up part of the exterior of the Palazzo Senatorio. A conduit from the Aqua Felice was built later and it carried water to the Capitol making a more lavish water effect possible. Michelangelo had anticipated this, however, and added a bigger basin styled on the art of the late Cinquecento.

Was the famed artist the originator of the wall fountain? The fountain types found in Italy undeniably show the influence of his designs. Today, this structural look is found at the Fountain of the River Gods at the Villa Lante, Bagnaia 1, and the Fountain of the Mugnone arranged among the stairs on the main axis of the Villa Pratolino.

Rather than designing fountains based on his own genius, Michelangelo was doomed to integrating conventional elements into Roman-styled structures. Julius III (1550-1555) decided to have a fountain built at the top of the Belvedere in the Vatican and commissioned the Florentine master to design a one-of-a-kind wall fountain. The famed artist was asked to design a marble figure of Moses striking a stone from which water flowed. However, an ancient figure of Cleopatra replaced the statue of Moses because the latter would take too much time build. It was considered easier to use a classical piece of art above the fountain rather than have the eminent artist design a totally new figure.

Keeping Your Garden Wall Fountain Clean

It is important to carefully maintain water fountains for them to work properly. It is easy for foreign objects to find their way into outside fountains, so keeping it clean is vital. On top of that, algae can be a problem, because sun hitting the water enables it to form easily. Stir hydrogen peroxide, sea salt, or vinegar into the water to avoid this particular issue. Another option is to blend bleach into the water, but this action can harm wild animals and so should really be avoided.

A complete cleaning every three-four months is ideal for garden fountains. First you must empty the water. Next use mild soap and a soft sponge to clean the innner part of the reservoir. If there are any tiny grooves, grab a toothbrush to reach every spot. Do not leave any soap residue in or on the fountain.

Make sure you get rid of any calcium or plankton by taking the pump apart and scrubbing the inside thoroughly. Soaking it in vinegar for a time will make it easier to wash. Build-up can be a big hassle, so use mineral or rain water over tap water, when possible, to prevent this dilemma.

And finally, make sure the water level is continuously full in order to keep your fountain operating smoothly. If the water level drops below the pump’s intake level, it can hurt the pump and cause it to burn out - something you don't want to happen!


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