Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rome's fountains under attack

According to news reports, early yesterday morning, the Fontana del Moro (Fountain of the Moor), the southernmost of the three fountains in Piazza Navona, was attacked and severely damaged. Surveillance cameras nearby recorded a middle-aged man climbing into the fountain and violently smashing a stone ten times against the figures decorating one of the four maschere (masks) that grace the fountain. Three pieces broke off, but luckily were not stolen, but fell into the water of the fountain. A tourist nearby noticed not the attack itself, but the marble pieces in the water and alerted the vigili, but by that time, the culprit had fled.



The Fontana del Moro was originally conceived by the great fountain designer Giacomo della Porta in 1574, but many of the sculptures were added by Bernini in 1653. Luckily, when the fountain was restored in 1874, the original sculptures by Bernini were removed for safekeeping, and replaced with copies. Because the pieces have not been lost, the fountain is expected to be thoroughly restored.

But the story doesn't end there: just a few hours later, around 3pm, surveillance cameras spotted a seemingly identical man climb up onto the base of the monumental Trevi fountain and hurl a sanpietrino (Roman cobblestone) at one of its travertine figures. Luckily, he missed and the stone landed harmlessly in the water. The culprit was able to escape into the crowd, but authorities are almost certain it was the same man.

As expected, politicians are coming out to condemn the act, using phrases like "act of folly" and "great offence to our city."  The opposition is taking advantage of the opportunity to criticize the current mayor, saying "In Alemanno's Rome, there are no longer rules", and "Rome is out of control, from the legal point of view."

I can't help but agree, particularly when it comes to petty crime and Romans' seeming disregard for traffic, parking, littering, vandalism and other basic civic laws.  (These are the things I, as an ordinary resident, witness on a daily basis so they are more prominent in my consciousness.) But then again, can you blame the locals for not obeying laws that are almost never enforced? There is talk of a crack-down on acts of vandalism and it would be about time. The graffiti alone is a shameful example of the city's complaisance, but I wonder if anything will actually change.

To add insult to injury, a twenty-year-old American tourist was caught digging outside the Colosseum last night, on the Via Labicana side, collecting ancient fragments of the monument to take home as souvenirs. He was quickly apprehended, but is not the same man who went on a fountain-vandalising spree earlier. Maybe, in light of the day's events, he thought Rome was a free-for-all, with the city's greatest treasures just there for the taking (or the destroying). The city was, after all, founded on fratricide and abduction. Vandalism doesn't seem quite so bad by comparison.

Photo sources: 1, 2
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  1. i'm super glad i just read this current news, thanks for posting it!:-) Am i missing something though, is there actually any difference between the before and after photos there?

    It seems unlikely to me that it just so happened that there were these three acts of vandalism happening today out of the ordinary. i suspect that it happens all the time, often enough that three in one day is unusual, but only because there were THREE!

    My favorite line of The Pines of Rome ever: "The city was, after all, founded on fratricide and abduction."

  2. In the top photo, take a look at the cuddly baby dragons snuggling up to the mask-guy's cheeks. Look at the second photo, and the dragons' heads are gone. Don't know what the third damaged piece was.

    I think if the second two incidents were isolated things, we wouldn't have heard of them (especially the third) but famous fountains getting bashed in is major news, and indeed it was all over the news even before the second incident occurred. The third incident is just a pathetic afterword, really. (not that it isn't all pathetic!)

    Re Fratricide and abduction: yes, I think people sometimes forget that Rome had less than lofty beginnings. No wonder the Sabines didn't want to give their daughters to the brutish Romans! :)

  3. How bizarre. (Well, the last one is just plain dumb.) What must be going on in that man's head to want to destroy such antiquities? Clearly not an art critic, so voices perhaps...

  4. Ah of course, thanks for backing up my lack of observational skill there!:-)

  5. One man's treasure is another man's trash;-) :-)

  6. I read this sometime back. Why don't the Italians hire guards to protect their priceless art?


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