Bernini’s Attempt to Fix the Trevi Fountain
Urban VIII, like his predecessors was responsible for a large number of fountains as well. The two most famous during his papacy include the Barcaccia Fountain and the Barberini Triton fountain by Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Bernini also tried to fix the issue of the Trevi Fountain, and it seemed that a resolution may actually happen. A brief from Urban reads the following, “[To the] Administrators of our Council of Fountains in Rome and Prior to the District Wardens… Having for the convenience of our City of Rome ordered that the Aqua Vergine that was being lost in the conduits of the Trevi Fountain be restored at great expense, and in the desire that the façade and statues of the display fountain be renovated with much greater decorative statuary for the ornamentation of the city with a new fountain design made to such purpose, We grant you wide-ranging power over the expenditure on the said display fountain up to the sum of six thousand scudi… To reduce the cost of the work, We order you to arrange that for the said construction of the fountain the necessary travertine and marble should be taken from Capo di Bove and other materials from Rome…”. According to this it would be because of Bernini, notorious for destroying antiquities, that the Pope ordered the tomb of Cecilia Metella be destroyed for supplies to build the fountain.
The owners of the land on which the colossal fountain and monument was located, since as early as 1589, had made requests to Cardinal Montalto for the demolishing of the feature, because it was actually outside of the borders of the Roman city, and it would be convenient to strip the site, as it was not a public place anyhow. The petition was ended by saying, “continual prayers to the Almighty for your preservation and that He may grant your noble Lordship a long and most happy life”. The cardinal, was very young at the time, and deferred the decision to the city council, even though he was not opposed to destroying it. The council was completely against it. Ironically, the farmers were then justified in giving up on their wishes and prayers for the cardinal’s young life, and he died at 53.
We now come to the time of Urban VIII, and it finally seemed that he had succeeded on August 1, 1640, roughly two and a half months after the Pope already ordered the demolishing. Bernini paid a mason to begin the demolition as soon as possible.
The Capitol, it becomes clear, was still opposed to the demolition of the site, looking at it as an act of barbarianism. A diarist writes, “Bernini, who is the Pope’s favorite sculptor because of his ability, considered making an extravagant façade for the Aqua Vergine known as the Trievi [sic]; he obtained a Brief to demolish that beautiful structure and set about it, but on seeing this, the Roman People [= the authorities] prevented it and work ceased in order to avoid stirring up trouble”.