The Waters of Rome


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Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City

Katherine Wentworth Rinne


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In this pioneering study of the water infrastructure of Renaissance Rome, urban historian Katherine Rinne offers a new understanding of how technological and scientific developments in aqueduct and fountain architecture helped turn a medieval backwater into the preeminent city of early modern Europe. Supported by the author’s extensive topographical research, this book presents a unified vision of the city that links improvements to public and private water systems with political, religious, and social change. Between 1560 and 1630, in a spectacular burst of urban renewal, Rome’s religious and civil authorities sponsored the construction of aqueducts, private and public fountains for drinking, washing, and industry, and the magnificent ceremonial fountains that are Rome’s glory. Tying together the technological, sociopolitical, and artistic questions that faced the designers during an age of turmoil in which the Catholic Church found its authority threatened and the infrastructure of the city was in a state of decay, Rinne shows how these public works projects transformed Rome in a successful marriage of innovative engineering and strategic urban planning.

Katherine Wentworth Rinne is an urban designer and historian of Renaissance and baroque architecture and urbanism. She is adjunct professor in the department of architecture at the California College of the Arts and associate fellow at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia.  

"As lavishly produced as it is clearly written, with a beauty that defies its utilitarian message: that a fountain’s primary function is to pour water into a basin or shoot a jet into the air; that its decoration is secondary, and often, in fact, dictated by functionality.”—Journal of Urban History

“A groundbreaking study of the hydraulic infrastructure of Renaissance Rome that focuses on three papally sponsored aqueducts and their associated fountains. . . . Katherine Wentworth Rinne deftly weaves art history, social history, and the history of technology into her detailed analysis of the role these structures played in the emergence of the early modern urban landscape. . . A fascinating study.”—Roberta J. Magnusson, American Historical Review


"As never before, The Waters of Rome reveals the arteries and guts of the Eternal City and the way in which they form the basis of the marvellous urban artefact built above them on the seven hills."--Architectural Review

"A goldmine of information. . . . Rinne has written, and Yale University Press has produced, a handsome book that students of Rome, urban planning and hydraulic technology will definitely want to own. Even old Rome hands who think they know the city well will learn much from this study."--Harry B. Evans, Burlington Magazine

"A fascinating look at the neglected art of Baroque urban planning."—College & Research Libraries News

Winner of the 2011 John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize sponsored by the Foundation for Landscape Studies

Winner of the Society of Architectural Historians 2012 Spiro Kostof Book Award sponsored by the Society of Architectural Historians.
The Kostof award recognizes the work that, focusing on urbanism and architecture, provides the greatest contribution to our understanding of historical development and change.
ISBN: 9780300155303
Publication Date: January 11, 2011
240 pages, 8 1/2 x 11
135 b/w + 32 color illus.