Piazza Navona, Rome
The Piazza Navona is one of the most characteristic Baroque squares in Rome, constantly filled with crowds of visitors as well as Romans. Street musicians play popular melodies as street artists and souvenir traders offer their wares. Visitors should be prepared to pay high prices for such treats as the legendary chocolate confection "Tartuffo" in the Tre Scaline or an ice-cream at the Cafe di Colombia. The palaces and churches around the square still mark out the area of the stadium (240m/790ft long, 65m/215ft across) constructed here by Domitian. During the Middle Ages the arena was used for water festivals and horse races. It was rebuilt with its magnificent series of palaces and churches (including Sant'Agnese) by Borromini during the Baroque period.
Piazza Navona Map
Transit: Bus: 26, 46, 62, 64, 70, 81, 88, 90.
The church of Sant'Agnese, on the west side of the Piazza Navona, is dedicated to the Roman martyr St Agnes. It is built on the foundations of one side of the Stadium of Domitian, on the spot where, according to legend, the saint was about to be exposed naked to the populace when her hair suddenly and miraculously grew long to cover her nakedness. St Agnes is supposed to have been executed at the place where the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura stands.Sant'Agnese, which adjoins the Palazzo Pamphili, was founded by Pope Innocent X, a member of the Pamphili family, and built by a succession of architects - first Girolamo Rainaldi (1652), then Borromini (1653-57) and finally Carlo Rainaldi (1672). The facade, campanile and dome (heightened by Borromini) present a lively interplay of convex and concave forms, gables, canopies, windows, columns and piers. The interior shows the same sense of movement and yet of unity. The crypt contains Alessandro Algardi's portrayal of "The Miracle of St Agnes" (1653) and the remains of a Roman mosaic pavement.Sant'Agnese provided a model which was followed in many churches of the Baroque and Rococo periods, both in Italy and in other countries.
Fountain of the Four Rivers
There are three fountains in the square, the most notable being the Fontana dei Fiumi (1647-51), with which Bernini won the favor of Pope Innocent X. This is a masterly and spirited composition with a large basin from which emerges a rocky crag bearing an obelisk, surrounded by plants and animals. At the four corners are figures personifying the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata - the rivers then believed to be the largest in the four known continents. Each figure is accompanied by appropriate flora and fauna. According to a traditional Roman joke the Nile has his head veiled because the source of the river was not known, or alternatively - alluding to the bitter rivalry between the two famous architects, Bernini and Borromini - the Nile is covering his eyes to avoid seeing the structural defects in Borromini's church of Sant'Agnese, facing the fountain. The two other fountains in the square are the Fontana del Moro in front of the Palazzo Pamphili, erected by Giacomo della Porta (1575-76), and the 19th century Fontana del Nettuno with its figure of the sea-god.
More Piazza Navona Pictures