St. Peters Fountain

In the spring the Altieri fountain is the more beautiful because at that time that portion of the Colonnade which forms its background reveals vistas of foliage, while the moss web woven about the crown of the shaft is of a more brilliant green and the lower basin is full of the same aquatic growth swaying with the motion of the water.

The Acqua Paola, which feeds these fountains, comes, in the last instance, from the summit, of the Janiculum, and therefore their central jets are flung upward to a height of sixty-four feet, far above the balustrade crowning Berninis lofty colonnades, which form the background of the piazza. This height exceeds by from twenty-four to thirty-four feet the height of the English and French fountains; and whereas in the fountains of London and Paris the supply and force of the water varies with the season of the year and the time of day (the Trafalgar Square fountains in summer play thirteen hours out of the twenty-four and in winter only seven), the abundance and power of the water in these great Roman fountains is unfailing and unchanging. At midnight, at high noon, in summer, in winter, they are always flowing, and the splash and wash of the water makes them akin to the cascades of Nature.

This perpetual flow has been a characteristic of the Roman fountains since the days of the Emperors. Frontinus, writing in the reign of Trajan, says that all the great fountains were constructed with two receiving-tanks, each from a separate aqueduct, so that no accident or emergency should diminish or stop the supply of water. The later popes were also careful to preserve this uninterrupted flow, and since the close of the Cinque Cento their fountains have played unceasingly. The lowest basins of both fountains (twenty-six feet in diameter) are of travertine with a rim of Carrara marble. The middle basins (fifteen feet in diameter) are of granite. That in the right-hand fountain is of red Oriental granite, and that in the left-hand fountain of gray granite. The inverted basins at the summit, on which the water falls, are of travertine, as are also the massive shafts, which, however, Maderno adorned with a slight moulding of Carrara marble just above the water-line in the lowest basins. The entire structures have been so transformed in color by three hundred years deposit of the Acqua Paola that they have the appearance of bronze.

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