The Fontana Maggiore in Perugia
The upper marble basin has twelve sides divided into twenty-four smooth panels of pink Assisi stone. Each one is separated by an equal number of white Carrara marble statuettes set on ledges between the panels. Some of the figures represent personages from the history of the city and legends, while others are symbolic.
The statue of Augusta Perusia depicts her sitting on the throne between Domina Clusi and Domina Laci holding a horn of plenty in her hands, the symbol of the wealth of grain and fish these two properties offered up as gifts. Near them are the two protector saints of the city, San Lorenzo and Sant'Ercolano, with their respective symbols. Next to them, San Benedetto with the disciple Mauro pays symbolic homage to the figure of Fra' Bevignate, the Benedictine monk who planned the construction of the fountain. A second group of statuettes revolves around the figure of Roma Caput Mundi seated in a throne between San Paolo and San Pietro, at whose right is the Ecclesia Romana. These statues were put there to underscore, the city's autonomous status notwithstanding, its dependence on Rome, being in part Guelph, and pays homage to the universal power of the City and the Papacy.
The figures of Matteo da Correggio and Ermanno da Sassoferrato are more specifically linked to the history of Perugia as they were, respectively, podestà and capitano of the people in 1278 as the fountain was being built. Next to the latter is Victoria Magna clad as a simple woman of the times. And the figure of Euliste, the legendary Trojan hero to which the city traced its roots, could not but be placed between the two statues of the city's most potent men. Finally, there are figures from the Old and New Testament: San Michele, Melchisedech, San Giovanni Battista, David, Moses and Salomon.
The larger lower basin features a wide-ranging figurative cycle set on a base of light red marble. Made entirely of white marble, the basin's wall is divided into 25 parts. Each part consists of two panels separated from one another by a column and from the others with a grouping of four slim columns. The fifty panels can be divided into categories based on the topics they represent: the twelve months by their zodiac symbols, the eight liberal arts (Philosophy, which was usually considered a real science, was added to the traditional seven arts), stories from the Old Testament (Adam and Eve with the serpent, their banishment from heaven, Samson and the Lion, Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath), the mythical story of the foundation of Rome (Rea Silvia, the wolf and the twins, Romolo and Remo as they interpret the meaning of the flight of the birds), and two Episcopal tales (the wolf and the lamb, the wolf and the crane). Very reminiscent of these tales for its moral lesson is the panel with the little lion being beaten by its owner. It's significance is that you must nip evil in the bud and thus prevent the enemy from becoming a menace. It can also be interpreted as a warning to parents to educate their children well from a tender age. And then there are the depictions of the political emblems of the Guelph lion and the Perugian Gryphon. The significance of one panel, however, is unclear: the eagle depicted with two faces, most likely an homage the sculptor Giovanni Pisano wanted to pay to his Saint.
It goes without saying that the people of Perugia were very involved in the construction of the fountain and the aqueduct that lead to the centre of town from Mt. Pacciano, and that the choice of icons was of vital importance. The people were also called upon to help finance the project by donating sums of money, each according to his trade, to help pay for a fountain whose cost seemed to be more than the city alone could bear. Contrary to their predictions, however, the money was given back as promised in the pact, between January and April of 1286.
Information and tips
Piazza IV Novembre can be easily reached by foot from any of the parking lots located in the city centre.
You can take a bus or taxi to it from the train station.
Or take the Minimetrò and get off at the "Mercato Coperto"