The fountain of the pine-cone outside Old St Peter’s in Rome

In the little courtyard or “atrium”, inside the portico but outside the main doors of Old St Peter’s (and you can follow the tag below for many images of the church), stood a little fountain.

pianta di Roma di Etienne Du Perac (1577), particolare del Vaticano.
pianta di Roma di Etienne Du Perac (1577), particolare del Vaticano.

It included a colossal pine-cone of bronze, which will be familiar to many who have visited the Vatican[1]:

The Vatican pinecone and peacocks today. Via Wikimedia Commons.
The Vatican pinecone and peacocks today. Via Wikimedia Commons.

I found online at Google Books[2] the following copy of a drawing of the fountain, itself taken from Huelsen[3]:

Water installation with bronze pine-cone in the atrium of Old St Peter's, Rome.  Drawing by Cronaca (1457-1505).  Uffizi, Florence, 1572.
Water installation with bronze pine-cone in the atrium of Old St Peter’s, Rome. Drawing by Cronaca (1457-1505). Uffizi, Florence, 1572.

The Huelsen article includes further drawings.

huelsen_fig3
Andrea della Vaccaria, “Ornamenti di fabriche antichi e moderni dell’alma citta di Roma”, 1600, quarto.

Another image comes from a manuscript, Ms. Brussels 17872, fol. 56v, by Philipp de Winghe, and made around 1591-2.

huelsen_fig2

Supposedly water would come out of the pinecone at various places, although how I don’t quite know.  The pinecone and two of the peacocks have survived, as may be seen above.

  1. [1]Photo from Wikimedia Commons, by Wknight94, April 2008.
  2. [2]A. van den Hoek & John H. Herrmann Jr, “Paulinus of Nola, courtyards and canthari: a second look”, In: A. van den Hoek &c, Pottery, Pavements, and Paradise: Iconographic and Textual Studies on Late Antiquity, Brill (2013), p.45, fig. 13.
  3. [3]C. Huelsen, “Der Cantharus von Alt-St. -Peter und die antiken Pignen-Brunnen,”, Romische Mitteilungen 19 (1904), 88-102. Plate 5a.  Online at Archive.org here.