The jewel of Piazza del Campo in Siena
At the top of Piazza del Campo is the city’s most important fountain: Fonte Gaia.
It was built by Jacopo della Quercia in 1419, in the spot where there was already a spring in 1346 fed by water from the ‘bottini’, the ancient underground tunnels that run through Siena for 25 km.
The name Fonte Gaia meaning ‘Joyous Fountain’ was chosen to recall the great celebrations of the Sienese when they saw water arrive in Piazza del Campo for the first time.
The monumental fountain was commissioned by the city to Jacopo della Quercia in 1409, and its execution was quite lengthy. The works lasted from 1414 to 1419.
For the construction of the fountain, Quercia took inspiration from the traditional structure of medieval Sienese public fountains, which took the form of large marble altars. The short sides are decorated with bas-reliefs of the Creation of Adam and the Escape from Eden, while the front pillars depict two female statues representing Acca Larenzia and Rea Silvia, in homage to the Roman origins of the city. The longer side is dominated by a representation of the Madonna and Child surrounded by allegories of the Virtues.
By the mid-19th century, Fonte Gaia was in rather poor condition and it was decided to replace Jacopo della Quercia’s work with a stronger replica in Carrara marble.
The commission was entrusted to Tito Sarrocchi in 1858, who completed the replica in 1869.
After several relocations, the original fountain was placed in a loggia of Palazzo Pubblico in 1904 where the materials continued to deteriorate. Finally, it was decided to have it restored and it was brought to the Museum Complex of Santa Maria della Scala where it remains today.