This ancient square at the center of Rione Trastevere is dominated by the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore from which it takes its name. Considered the oldest in Rome, the Basilica was built in the same place where a fountain was at the time of Emperor Augustus.
On one side of the square, adjacent to the Basilica, is the 17th-century Palazzo San Callisto owned by the Holy See. The fountain in the middle of the square is one of the oldest monumental fountains of Rome, already documented in the plan by Pietro del Massaio (1471) with a shape substantially similar to the one visible today: a polygonal basin in the center of which two overlapping basins rise (later reduced to one).
The history of this beautiful fountain is particularly troubled and summarized in the four epiraphs inserted in the lower basin. Important restoration works were promoted in 1604 by Clement VIII Aldobrandini (1592-1605) and above all by Alexander VII Chigi (1655-1667), who in 1659 increased its water flow, until then very scarce in all neighborhood. Gian Lorenzo Bernini restored the fountain by inserting four double shells facing outwards.
In 1692, under the pontificate of Innocenzo XII Pignatelli (1691-1700), Carlo Fontana replaced the Bernini shells with the current ones, larger and facing inwards.
To find out about all accessibility services, visit the Rome accessible section.