St. Peters Fountain

The water in each fountain rises in a crowded mass of separate jets from the summit of the central and single shaft, and falls at first on an inverted basin covered by deep carving, the richness of which gains in beauty from the green web woven about its curves and angles by the fall of the water. This upper carving seems to be a part of the fantastic action of the wind-tossed spray. The lower basins which receive the water are severely plain, the design following Natures scheme of development, from a fretted and turbulent source to the broad surfaces of the full stream. But the architectural values of these fountains are incalculably affected by the wonderful play of the water. It leaps upward as if to meet the sun; it falls back in tumult and foam; it drenches all about with its far-flung spray and wasteful overflow. It is the very triumph of vitality and joy.

The fountains of St. Peters might be said to bear toward the vast piazza of which they are a part the same relation as that of the eye to the human countenance: without them the noble spaces would seem cold and inanimate. This gleaming, tossing water endlessly at play with the wind and the sun, instinct with a power and a beauty not of mans making-this it is which gives to the world-famous scene the touch of life.

Pope Paul V has not only the honor of having erected the first of these two modern fountains, but he has also that of having himself discovered the original manuscript of a poem in which mention is made of the first fountain connected with the Church of St. Peter. This poem dates from the fourth century and was written by Pope Damasus (366-384). This pontiff was, like the Emperor Hadrian, a Spaniard; and, like Hadrian, he was not only a ruler of men, but gifted with many and varied talents. He was an archaeologist, a civil engineer, theologian, and poet. He presided over that Ecumenical Council by which the second great heresy threatening the church was condemned, as the first had been at the Council of Nicsea.

St. Jerome, after years of friendship, became secretary to the then care-worn and ailing pontiff, among whose many labors had been the restoration of the Catacomb of St. Calixtus, and other tombs of the early Christians and martyrs, some of which he marked with metrical inscriptions of his own composition.

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