The disappearing fountain: The Fountain of the Sow

fountain-of-the-sow-large.gif  An small and modest fountain that no longer exists was the fountain in via della Scrofa (meaning sow). It probably disappeared after 1870. There is a carving of a sow that can still be seen there today, at 94. In 1832 water was still running from the fountain into a small basin. Unfortunately this fountain was in the way of the pedestrians, so it was moved a few yards to the corner with Via dei Portoghesi, but the sow still sits at the same place with a dry spout. The idea behind the sow was to bring prosperity to whoever dedicated it. The Sow was, after all, a symbol of power and prosperity to the ancient Romans. Unfortunately, no scientific study has yet to be made on this relief.

This carving probably has been in the same location since about 1445, when an inn called “the Sow” was at this site. Also an edict declared by Pope Julius III referred to the street as Sow Street, because of the butchers located on the street. The State archives have a detailed list of every wall fountain that was built by the Popes in the last 25 years of the 16th century, and this fountain was not included. That list does show that on February 22, 1595 Clement VIII granted Raffaele Casali one and half ounces of the aqua Vergine for a fountain at his house in Sow Street. This is believed to be the Via della Scrofa. It was tradition between the papal and city councils to give citizens small quantities of water in order that erect fountains. The idea behind this was to give citizens a public duty that they cannot alter without consent from the higher courts.

These semi-public fountains are the responsibility of the owners, they are given the water at a lower cost, in order that they protect and maintain the fountains. The owners enjoy no taxation on the water, and enjoy the return of that water. However it was expected that the owners of the fountain not to take all the water, but only what they needed. Otherwise they could face corporal punishment for abusing the water privileges.