The Fountain of the Organ

The fountain houses a hydraulic organ that still works today. The instrument plays thanks to a hydraulic system that uses the falling water to blow air into the pipes

By Quirinale Palace

View of the Organ Fountain (1596)Quirinale Palace

The fountain looks like a large recess. It is 43 feet (13 m) high. In the mid-16th century there used to be a lower fountain, dug into the tuff bank of the hill, accessible from the main garden via a complex system of stairs and pathways.

The vault dates back to the end of the 16th century when it was built as part of the works to adapt the Quirinal Palace into a papal residence.

Vault of the Organ Fountain (1596)Quirinale Palace

In 1596, the fountain was completed and decorated with stucco, enamel, rustic mosaics, and scenes from the life of Moses.

The works were completed by Pope Clement VIII, as evidenced by the inscription in the oval medallion in the center of the vault.

The construction of the hydraulic organ dates back to that period, entrusted to Luca Blasi, who gave the fountain its name from that moment on.

The hydraulic organ of the Organ FountainQuirinale Palace

Over the centuries, the organ has been restored several times. Its hydraulic system has also been updated to improve the instrument's expressive potential and enable an increasingly vast repertoire of music to be performed. In the 17th century, a complex device was also added to produce a surprising mechanical theater.

The current drive mechanism dates back to the first half of the 18th century and is based on the insertion of a toothed roller to which the movement of the keys is connected. As the water falls, the large metal cylinder starts up which, in turn, lowers the keys, making the instrument automatically play.

It can also be played directly by an organist. The current organ features a 41-note keyboard with six registers for a total of 246 pipes.

View of the Organ Fountain (1596)Quirinale Palace

It is still fully working today. In 2004, to mark the end of a series of conservation interventions across the entire complex, a concert was organized for the first time since the unification of Italy at the Fountain of the Organ.

Detail of the floor of the Organ Fountain (1596)Quirinale Palace

The nozzles for the waterworks are located on the floor, arranged in a small pebble mosaic. They are connected to a device within the organ room. They date back to the pontificate of Clement VIII.

In the past, the vast nymphaeum (monument consecrated to the nymphs), was used for outdoor receptions, such as in June 1601 when, after lunch, the Persian ambassador and other guests were soaked by the original water features spouting from the floor, which they "very much enjoyed."

View of the Organ Fountain (1596)Quirinale Palace

The inside of the recess is fully decorated. The lower part is in a Tuscan-style tuff.

This is followed by a second order, decorated with painted stucco bas-reliefs depicting marine divinities and aquatic animals.

The third order ends in the large vault and consists of panels in which episodes from the Stories of Moses alternating with figures of Virtue are depicted using mixed techniques (tile mosaics, painted stucco, glass mosaics).

At the top of the vault, the Stories of Creation adorn the upper band of the triumphal arch.

The Forge of Vulcano in the lateral compartment of the Organ Fountain by collezione Cybo di MassaQuirinale Palace

On the right side of the main body of the fountain, there is a small room that houses a group of statues representing the Forge of Vulcan.

It is set in a tuff grotto with the god and several Cyclops concentratedly forging weapons in a furnace.

The statues date back to the late 17th century and come from the collections of the Cybo di Massa family.

In 1773, they became part of the papal property, and, at the end of the same century, they were transferred to the Quirinal Palace, where this spectacular set-up was created.

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