Fontana delle 99 Cannelle – the Fountain of 99 Spouts, is an icon in the city of L’Aquila and is one of the most impressive and unique monuments in region. Constructed in the 13th century, it is shrouded in legend and the true meaning of its 99 sculpted stone faces of the fountain still remains a mystery. The prevailing legend is that this unique piece of civil architecture represents the “99” castles from the surrounding counties (although there were actually closer to 70) that joined together to found the city of L’Aquila in the late-medieval era. This legend was likely attached to the monument after it was built. The construction was begun in 1272 by architect Tancredi from Pentima.
The fountain is laid out in the form of a diamond, with three inward-facing pools overlapped by rows of water-spouting carved stone faces. The wall features alternating red and white stones that creates an optical illusion, seemingly distorting and bending the horizontal lines. Each waterspout is masterfully sculpted and each has a different face. The faces are believed to be those of influential people of the time including monks, priests and knights, as well as mythical figures such as satyrs and demons.
It is said that Tancredi, the architect of the project, was buried under one of the stones of the fountain. He was executed for having refused to reveal the source of the fountain’s water. Even to this day, the origin of the water that feeds the fountain is unknown!