The Turtle Fountain (Fontana delle Tartarughe or Fontana Tortoise), built by Taddeo Landini between 1581 and 1588, is considered one of Rome’s first finest fountains.
It is world-acclaimed, and four replicas of it were built in the USA. Four bronze ephebes are holding a circular basin with one hand, while with another, they help a turtle climb the basin. Moreover, they ride four dolphins located on four conch shelves of marble. Initially, the ephebes held four other dolphins replaced with four turtles during the renovation in 1658.
The fountain features four ephebes (adolescents), each holding a dolphin, where the tail is in one hand while the head is under the right foot. The bronze material highlights the grace of ephebes. Moreover, the Turtle Fountain contains four portasanta marble seashells located on an African marble vase. It was designed by famous architect Giacomo Della Porta and constructed in 1582.
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The beautiful fountain is served by the name of the same aqueduct, Acqua Vergine, which reached the famous Trevi Fountain in 1570
Originally, the fountain was supposed to stand in Piazza Giudia, located nearby. Additionally, the market at the door of the Ghetto was held there. Finally, however, the monument was placed in Piazza Mattei by the will of Duke Muzio Mattei. Mattei wanted to see the masterpiece from his palace.
In 1658, during the papacy of Alexander VII, four turtles were added at the top of the basin, as if upheld by the ephebes. It was the suggestion of Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The rectangular Piazza Mattei in Renaissance style in which the fountain located is in the Jewish quarter
According to the legend, Duca Mattei, a young aristocrat with a passion for gambling, lost all his money. Consequently, the father of his bride decided to break off their engagement. Mattei tried to make the bride’s father reconsider his decision and decided to amaze him and the bride by creating the fountain one night in front of the Mattei family palace.
The next day, he asked the bride and her father to look out of the window at the square. They both were so impressed. The bride’s father became convinced that if the Duke managed to create such a masterpiece in a single night, he would also manage to make his daughter happy. However, the fountain was built in the late 1500s’, while the palace wasn’t built until 30 years ago.
In one half of the square, you can see the Fountain of the Turtles, recently restored. Many tourists come to admire the masterpiece, which is world-acclaimed. The area of the ancient Jewish Ghetto is famous because of its quiet and peaceful ambiance, which is different from the atmosphere of the busy metropolis the city of Rome is. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the area of the Jewish Ghetto was dominated by the Mattei family, who controlled the traffic on the left bank of the Tiber River.
The family built a palace and the Turtle Fountain, designed by Giacomo Della Porta and built by Taddeo Landini with addition of the three turtles by Bernini later on
The masterpiece is one of the most beautiful fountains in Rome. Have you ever visited Jewish Ghetto? Tell us about your experience in the comments!
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Author: Kate Zusmann
For the last 10 years, I live in the Eternal City. Traveling, exploring new things, writing blogs, and shooting vlogs are my main hobbies, but the thing that I like even more is sharing my experience and thoughts with you! Explore Rome with Us :)
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