Piazza Navona is without a doubt the most elegant and sunny corner in Rome. In ancient times, this stretch of metropolitan land occupied a stadium for athletic competitions. And modern guests of Rome can take a look at the magnificent baroque fountains and visit medieval temples.
In 80 A.D. in Rome was built the stadium of Domitian (Stadio di Domiziano). This building was a gift from the emperor Titus Flavius (lat. Titus Flavius Domitianus) to the inhabitants of the capital. Most often it was used for sporting events.
The second name of the stadium is the Agon Arena (from the ancient Greek "ἀγών" - "competition"). It is to this term that Navona Square owes its name. In the first centuries of our era, the stadium was called "campus agonis", closer to the Middle Ages, this term was transformed into "n'agone". In the end, the name was simplified to "navona".
The antique stadium had impressive dimensions: 275 by 106 meters, the number of spectators - 15 thousand! The building was richly decorated inside and out. In the arches around the stadium there was a lottery trade and entertainment venues. It is noteworthy that one of the brothels near the stadium subsequently turned into a church.
Early Christian period
Church of Santa Maria del Sacro Cuore (Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore)
On the north side of Piazza Navona is the church of Santa Maria del Sacro Cuore. The church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was erected on the ruins of the stadium of Domitian in the XII century. Money for the construction of the temple was bequeathed by King Ferdinand III of Castile (Ferdinand III). From the 16th to the 17th centuries, the basilica had the status of the national Spanish church in Rome.
In the 19th century, thanks to the efforts of Pope Leo XIII, the church of Santa Maria del Sacro Cuore was restored. The entrance to the building was moved from the inner streets of the capital to Navona Square. The decoration of the church altar and many of the paintings inside the temple were made by the Renaissance painter Francisco de Castello.
Piazza Navona is the most outstanding example of baroque that can only be found in Rome. The Baroque era came to this corner of the capital thanks to the Pamphilj family. At the end of the XV century, one of the representatives of this family will buy three old houses standing on the square. After a century and a half, Giambattista Pamphili takes the rank of pope and takes the name Innocent X.
Dad decided to build a family palace in the southern part of Piazza Navona. To this end, he hires a baroque architect - Girolamo Rainaldi. Thanks to this master, the Palazzo Pamphilj acquired such an elegant facade. The interior of the palace was already occupied by Francesco Borromini. Pope presented a magnificent Roman mansion to his cousin - Olimpia Maidalchini.
The Palazzo Pamphili boasts 23 rooms and a beautiful gallery that runs through the entire first floor of the mansion. The vaults of the gallery in 1651 were painted with frescoes by Pietro da Cortona. And in 1672, the church of St. Agnes joined the palace building, in which Pope Innocent X was buried. Today, the Brazilian embassy is located in the palace building.
The Legend of Agnes of Rome
There is an entertaining story about the life of a Roman girl named Agnes (lat. Agness). The beautiful maiden lived in Rome in the 3rd century A.D., she adopted the Christian faith and prepared to devote herself completely to the church. Unfortunately, the Roman prefect was in love with her, who did not want to hear about the refusal. Angry at the pious Agnes, the official ordered to undress her and send her in such a form to a brothel that he flourished at the Domitian stadium.
The interlocutors did not leave Agnes at a difficult time, her loose hair helped to hide from the burning eyes of the crowd. The angels brought a snow-white robe, in which a Christian believer dressed. In the brothel, the girl was also protected by faith, all the Romans left the prisoner room with shame. In January 304, an unbroken Roman woman was martyred at the hands of soldiers.
In the middle of the XVII century, on the very spot where the ancient house of tolerance was located, a temple was built in honor of Agnes of Rome. Sant Agnese in Agone (Sant Agnese in Agone) - an elegant snow-white basilica, made in the Baroque style.
The facade of the church looks at Piazza Navona, inviting travelers to look inside. The head of Saint Agnes is kept in the church as a revered relic.
Piazza Navona in Rome is decorated with three baroque fountains.
Four Rivers Fountain
In the center of the square is the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi), in which the waters of the ancient Roman aqueduct splash. It was built in 1648-51. Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini
Initially, an imitation of an ancient Egyptian obelisk was installed in the center of the square. Thus, the Pamphili family tried to give more importance to their possessions. Then, a talented architect found a way to beat a 16 meter high stone pillar. The elegant baroque fountain was decorated with statues of river deities, patronizing the Nile, Danube, Ganges and La Plata.
Bernini vs Borromini
A true decoration of the square is the church of St. Agnes, artfully decorated with baroque script. The basilica was built according to the architectural design of Francesco Borromini. Opposite the facade of the church is the most impressive of the three sources - the Fountain of the Four Rivers. At one time, Borromini and Bernini worked together until the struggle for influential customers upset their collaboration.
Among the Roman guides, the legend that competitors were able to embody their dislike in the decor of the capital's sights is popular. Sculptures of men embodying the four rivers supposedly defiantly turn away from the facade of the church. And the statue of St. Agnes condemningly looks from its height at the sculptural group of the famous fountain.
In fact, the fountain was built 21 years earlier than the church. Therefore, the malicious intent on the part of Bernini is a clear invention. As, however, the excessive severity of the face of Agnes of Rome. Although, it is worth recognizing, the legend came out very entertaining.
In the north of Piazza Navona, the Neptune Fountain flaunts (Fontana del Nettuno). It was built in 1574 by Giacomo de Porta (Giacomo della Porta). The initial embodiment of the fountain was modest and did not contain any decorations. Only at the end of the 19th century a simple stone pool filled with water was decorated. The powerful figure of the sea god, smashing an octopus with his trident, added character to the city reservoir. The authorship of the sculpture group of the Neptune Fountain belongs to the architect Antonio della Bitta.
In the southern part of the square is the Fontana del Moro. This man-made reservoir appeared in 1576 according to the project of the architect Giacomo del Port. Initially, four stone newts were installed in the waters of the fountain. However, in 1654, the fountain of Moor was processed by the master Bernini.
By order of Olympia, the Maidalkini fountain acquired more secular gloss. In the center of the fountain grew a figure of a Moor competing with a dolphin.
Braschi Palace (Palazzo Braschi) appeared in Rome in 1792. A close relative of Pope Pius VI decided to acquire a family palazzo overlooking Piazza Navona. Cosimo Morelli developed an architectural project and became the curator of the construction of the mansion. However, Bonaparte's invasion froze the finishing work until 1811. The Braschi family lost their rights to the palazzo, and the Italian government for a long time could not find application for the magnificent building.
Since 1949, the Palazzo Braschi has been used as a refuge for 300 Italian families. In 1952, the palace received the status of a museum in Rome. It is noteworthy that the building has one of the ancient Roman "talking" statues, dated to the 2nd century BC. A figure called Pasquino (Pasquino) at one time expressed the attitude of ordinary Romans to official power. In the Middle Ages, the base of the statue turned into an anonymous blackboard for libel-denunciations.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 to 19:00, the ticket price is 9 euros. Official website: www.museodiroma.it/sede/palazzo_braschi
Modern life square
Since ancient times, fairs and various tournaments have been held at the stadium of Domitian. In the Middle Ages, Piazza Navona became the venue for religious processions and festivities. Since the 15th century, for 4 centuries, the square has become the venue for weekly fairs.
At present, Piazza Navona hosts the Befana di piazza Navona Christmas Market once a year. The rest of the time, this corner of the capital is chosen by tourists who want to look at the baroque fountains and the huge obelisk. Souvenir shops located along the square will help city guests keep memories of Rome and its beauties.
How to get there
Getting to Piazza Navona is very easy, as it is surrounded by the main Roman sights.
- From the castle of the Holy Angel: walk along the promenade in the direction of the Palace of Justice, cross the Tiber along the Umberto I bridge, continue walking along Via Giuseppe Zanardelli and you will find yourself in the northern part of the square at the fountain of the Moor. Travel time: 15 minutes.
- From the Pantheon: in fact, it’s only 500 meters to go from the Pantheon to Navona, your task is to get the right direction, guided by the signs.