Piazza Barberini is a landmark in the central part of Rome. The name of the square comes from the ancient Roman family Barberini.
In ancient times there was a temple of the goddess Flora on the site of today’s square, next to which noisy public festivities were held to celebrate the arrival of spring. At the beginning of the 16th century, the square was named after Cardinal Grimani; in 1625 it was renamed after the Sforza family, a noble family of Milan. The Sforza estate was purchased by Maffeo Barberini, the future Pope Urbanus PP. VIII, who in 1627 decided to build here a palazzo.
Pope Urbanus VIII was a renowned figure of his time, an educated and well-read man who had a large collection of books for his time, was acquainted with Galileo Galilei and was a patron of the arts. He initiated the construction of many buildings in Rome and designed the palace and the square to commemorate his glorious family.
Thus, the square got its name Piazza Barberini in 1633, when on the southern side of it, on the elevation, the Barberini Palace was majestically erected and gardens were laid out around the square.
In the middle of the XVII century, under the direction of the architect Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, a theater with the same name was built on the square. This building became the cultural center of the city: representatives of science and art came here, theatrical performances, musical evenings and balls were arranged, poets recited their works. The theater existed until 1873, and then was demolished to build the Via Barberini.
Fontana del Tritone
The Fontana del Tritone was built in 1642 by Bernini on the orders of Pontifex Urbana VIII to form a unified ensemble with Palazzo Barberini, which had been completed shortly beforehand.
The building stone used was the local travertine stone, popular in antiquity, malleable and perfectly amenable to processing, allowing the finest details to be executed. And water was brought to the fountain from the restored ancient Roman aqueduct Acqua Felice.
The fountain was different from any previously built in Rome. It represents a new direction in art – Baroque.
Fontana delle Api
The Fontana delle Api appeared two years after the Fountain of Triton, in 1644, but it was not in the center, but at the corner of the square, at the beginning of Via Felice, and in 1800 it was moved to the corner of Via Vittorio Veneto and Via di San Basilio. The author is, of course, Bernini, a favorite of Urban VIII.
This light and graceful fountain is shaped like a small open shell with three bees sitting at its base, filling it with the purest water.
Into the lower flap of the shell runs water from the fountain. The name of Pope Urban VIII is inscribed on the upper flap of the shell.
The author chose simple untreated stones as the base for the sculptural group, which creates a striking contrast to the skilled filigree work of the craftsman in making the shells and bee figures.
The inscription included a handwritten couplet by Urban VIII (Bernini’s patron saint), indicating that it was then in the 22nd year of his reign.