123. Winged Dragons and the coexistence of Good and Bad

Updated: Mar 24

By Giulio D'Ercole


#AngelsandDemons, the famous #DanBrown's book, made even more famous by #RonHoward's movie with #TomHanks shows the two opposite souls living in #Rome and even more in the complex world of the #Vaticancity. Traces of the coexistence between good and bad are visible in the #eternalcity almost everywhere, but it is even more surprising to recognize them along the very large avenue, #viadellaconciliazione, that leads to #stPeterchurch. In fact, attached to the facade of the fifteenth-century Palazzo della Rovere, two fountains portraying scary wings dragons, looking like gargoyles, which design dates back to the time of Pope Paul V Borghese (1605-1621). But are they truly a sign of evil? As a matter of fact, their iconography unequivocally talks about something else: those dragons are the heraldic sign of the #Borghesefamily (which not necessarily was, in fact, that very good). But what was the purpose of thees two fountains? Here is where good comes into place, even if in a very devilish form: following the example of his predecessors GregoryXIII and Sixtus V, Pope Borghese contributed to increasing the city's water supply with the renovation of the ancient Trajan aqueduct, which from the name of the pontiff is known as the Trajan-Paul aqueduct. Entering the city from the north-west, from the height of the Janiculum, the new aqueduct first supplied the Trastevere district and the Vatican area. Both embellished by the pavonazzetto of the pillars that support the newsstands, the two small fountains, while forming pendants, differ in a series of details. In addition to the background, which in the right fountain is red and houses an eagle, another heraldic symbol of the Borghese, and in the left one it consists of a simple white marble slab engraved with the inscription SPA (Sacred Apostolic Palaces), the differences also concern the design of the oval enclosing the dragon, the shape, and material of the tray and other decorative details.



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All photographs by Giulio D'Ercole.

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