The Obelisks of Rome, Part IV

I’ve saved the best for last.  It may not be the largest obelisk in Rome, but it sits in the most magnificent of places, smack dab in the middle of Piazza Navona, and held aloft by Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers.

The obelisk of Piazza Navona

The obelisk once stood at the Circus of Maxentius, but was moved to its present location by Bernini in 1651.  The fountain bears the crest of Pope Innocent X, and faces his family’s palace, Palazzo Pamphili, and the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone.

The papal crest of the Fountain of the Four Rivers

The fountain depicts personifications of the major rivers of the four continents known to Christianity at the time, along with plants and animals (some, as you will see, dubiously depicted) from those continents.  The Danube, representing Europe, twists around, his arms gesturing to the coat of papal arms above.

The Danube …
Another view of the Danube …

Nearby is a charging horse.

A noble steed in full gallop …

Then there is the Ganges, representing Asia, holding an oar; under him you can see the head of a giant snake.

The River Ganges

The Río de la Plata, representing the Americas, is near a very weird looking creature.

The Rio de la Plata


Armadillo? Crocodile? Your guess is as good as mine.

Finally there is the Nile, representing Africa.  The figure’s head is veiled, symbolizing that no one as yet knew the source of the Nile.

The Nile


The Nile’s head is covered …

Near the Nile is this wonderful lion, about to take a drink from the fountain, while a palm tree sways in the wind.

The lion of Africa …
A palm tree bending in the wind

All in all, a very fitting base for one of Rome’s great obelisks.