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Mimi’s Virtual Angels and Demons Blog Tour continues: Piazza Navona

May 14, 2009 by  

Piazza Navona

Fountain of Four Rivers, Piazza Navona, Rome

Day 5–Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi

We continue following the path of the Illuminati as our story wends through Rome. Vittoria has been kidnapped and Professor Langdon struggles on his own. He desperately tries to connect the series of clues: earth, wind, fire and water. Using his knowledge of symbology, he heads toward Piazza Navona. He suspects Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or the Fountain of Four Rivers is the source of the “water” clue.

The massive fountain sits in the middle of Piazza Navona, one of Rome’s most famous squares. The open space is actually long and oval shaped, rather than four-sided, because it was built over emperor Domitian’s ancient stadium. The name derived from “in agone” meaning the place of combat. But today, instead of gladiator fights, we find a festive atmosphere.

The spot always stays boisterous and bustling, except for ” one certain night” in Angels & Demons! If you visit, you’ll find a cadray of street performers, lively music, outdoor cafés, fine restaurants and even night clubs.

The square is also home to the Church of Saint Agnes in Agony, commissioned by Pope Innocent X. Legend says this is the site where St Agnes was stripped naked, but miraculously saved from disgrace by her hair’s extraordinary growth. Shall we say, a cross between discreet Lady Godiva and a spontaneous Rapunzel.

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The Fountain of Four Rivers

Bernini constructed the massive Fountain of Four Rivers between 1647 and 1651. To me, it resembles the famous Trevi Fountain, not in shape, but for the inclusion of heroic statues and platforms amidst roaring water. At night floodlights radiate underwater creating a greenish-golden glow.

The four rivers are represented by the Nile, Ganges, Danube and the Rio de la Plata. They depict the then known continents under papal power. These rivers spalsh from a central marble rock, where a Roman obelisk rises high above. The obelisk honors the ancient founder of the square.

Bernini’s statue, naturally baroque in style, contains symbolic touches. Bracing against the currents are pagan river gods, animals and plants, each supposedly appropriate to the continent. For instance, the Ganges carries a long oar, representing the river’s navigability and a snake slithers nearby.

The Nile’s head is draped with a loose piece of cloth, because no one knew the location of the headwaters. An African lion lurches from the middle of the basin, a specimen of the continent.

The Danube touches the Papal coat of arms, since it is the largest river closest to Rome. A regal horse dramatically charges through the pool.

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The Strange Crocodile in the detail of the River of Four Fountains

And the Río de la Plata god sits on a pile of coins, a symbol of the riches the Americas could offer to Europe. At the time not much was known about the animals in North or South America, so a strange looking crocodile, armor-plated like an armadillo was chosen as the representative creature. Be sure to look for it.

Coin-tossing kids and sweaty tourists love to stand close, allowing the cool mist to spray on their body. They watch the water cascading down the stones, amazed at this outdoor wonder. Professor Langdon didn’t have time to appreciate the masterpiece; he was too busy trying not to drown.

Fortunately, visitors to the Eternal City find life-sustaining fountains galore, each spewing a seemingly endless supply of aqua. Water, water everywhere… oh, where will our story flow?

Mimi (Debi Lander) did not, nor is she now, receiving any compensation from Dan Brown, Sony Pictures or the Angels & Demons tour company. She paid her own travels and tour expenses.

Images by Debi Lander, Gary Granfield or courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Glow of the Four Rivers stauary at night

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