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33. Symbols and Identity

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

By - Giulio D'Ercole

Along a small street in between Piazza Navona and Pantheon, before Piazza Sant'Eustachio, is the Fountain of Books (La fontana dei libri), designed by Pietro Lombardi and built in travertine in 1927. Placed at the center, in between four big books, two on each side, there is the head of a deer, symbol of the district, Rione Sant'Eustachio. The books refer to the ancient University della Sapienza. In fact the small fountain is placed on the side wall of Palazzo della Sapienza (the word Sapienza in Italian means "knowledge") , where today the State Archive resides. Most likely the water poured out by two bookmark-shaped taps and from two more taps inserted within circular panels, mean the knowledge coming from education. The five balls above the deer head and the books are the symbol of the nobility of the Medici family that owned Palazzo Madama situated in front of the small fountain.

What must be noted though is the date when the fountain was designed and built. We are in fact in 1927, when Fascism in Italy was already the governing regime and Mussolini was fully in power. Building fountains and many other monuments, as well as entire new neighborhoods, was one of the many ways "il Duce" (the Chief) used to promote a new Italian culture based on the ancient golden times of the Roman Empire. Pietro Lombardi in fact designed other eight fountains, placed in different neighborhoods of Rome (Rioni), all meant to provide them a specific identity.

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