Rome’s Trevi Fountain, captivating millions of global tourists annually, is more than a spectacle of architectural brilliance. It is a canvas steeped in ancient legend and traditions that have withstood the test of time. From the mythical appearance of a virgin leading soldiers to water to the practice of tossing coins, each aspect beckons the curious to delve deeper into this compelling edifice.
The Trevi Fountain: Tracing Its Enchantment and the Hope Wrapped in Every Coin
The captivating narrative of the Trevi Fountain, naturally anticipated in a city with thousands of years under its belt, takes root in an ancient Roman tale.
According to the legend, the weary and parched soldiers of Roman General Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, while some 20 kilometers from Rome, received a divine intervention. A virgin, in a transcendent manifestation, guided them to the source of the “acqua virgo,” or virgin water. This site hosted pure, invigorating water, in honor of which a bas-relief resides to the right of the fountain, a permanent homage to the tale.
Agrippa, esteemed for his strategic prowess and architectural vision alike, installed three fountains at this spot. He channeled the water from these through an aqueduct to his baths, situated where the Pantheon stands today.
The Lover’s Fountain and the Trevi Fountain: Rituals of Love and Wishful Hopes
The practice of tossing a coin into the fountain, adopted by millions of tourists today, reverberates the old custom of perceiving fountains and wells as sacred sites.
In the days of yore, individuals made offerings to the gods by casting valuable objects into these waters, an act of propitiation that has morphed into the present-day tradition of hurling a coin to guarantee a return to Rome.
Adjacent to the majestic Trevi Fountain, a smaller, humble fountain known as the Lover’s Fountain resides. War times folklore tells that the city’s young women led their lovers to its waters the night before their departure.
The intent was poignant yet straightforward: ensuring their return.
Lovers would approach the fountain, where the woman would fill a never-before-used glass and offer it to her beloved. Upon drinking, the glass was shattered – a symbol of their pledged fidelity and the woman’s hope of not losing her loved one.
Initially, thanks to Agrippa, the fountain design comprised three simple vessels to gather the water, linked to a building at the convergence of three roads, hence “Trevi”. However, Pope Urban VIII, in 1629, assigned the renowned architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini to draft potential enhancements for the fountain. This plan, however, was abandoned post the Pope’s demise.
In 1730, Pope Clement XII organized a competition, appointing Nicola Salvi for the refurbishment, who found inspiration in Bernini’s unrealized sketches. The renovation kicked off in 1732 and wrapped up in 1762, thirty years following Clement XII’s death and over a decade post-Salvi’s death, leaving him unable to witness his completed masterpiece.
Time-Honored Rituals and Modern Philanthropy: The Unseen Traditions of the Trevi Fountain
The Trevi Fountain, a grand Baroque masterpiece, symbolically portrays the two moods of the sea: one tumultuous, the other serene, emerging as one of Rome’s most iconic and romantic monuments. Its popularity soared following its depiction in Federico Fellini’s acclaimed film “La Dolce Vita.”
Today, thousands of visitors throw a coin into the fountain, hopeful of revisiting Rome. This emblematic act collects over 3,000 euros daily, which is donated to the Caritas charity organization, financing a budget supermarket for Rome’s underprivileged.
Perhaps only a handful of those engaging in this ritual are aware that they are breathing life into a historical narrative: the tale of a virgin aiding parched soldiers and another epoch, where soldiers, in turn, relied on the fountain, seeking the promise of a safe and healthy homecoming to their cherished Rome.