La Fontana Fraterna è un’elegante fonte pubblica con sei getti d’acqua, dalle inusuali forme di un loggiato, realizzata con blocchi di pietra calcarea compatta.
(Source: “La Fontana della Concezione” by Guido LICCIARDI in “Altri Itinerari” – Volturnia Editions)
The “Fontana Fraterna” is a refined public fountain with six water jets, with an unusual arcade-shape, made of blocks of calcareous, compact stone.
The fountain has articulated into three fillets laid one upon the other. From below, there is a series of smooth fillets (the one on the left is a Roman-epoch and fragmentary epigraph with the letters AE PONT, while in the centre there is a mat decorated with dolphins and a Roman-age flower, probably coming from a sepulchral building), then there is a median fillet with a series of six round arches supported, on the left side, by little circular columns and on the right side, by little octagonal columns.
Above these columns there are some capitals of re-employment. Two capitals have trapezoidal-plant abacus and perhaps adorned a window splay. The higher fillet presents a line of smooth ashlars on which twelve little hanging arches set, supported by little brackets adorned with zoomorphic, phitomorphic and geometric motives. On the bottom of the fountain, on a second level in respect to the arcade, you can distinguish two blocks of Roman age with some swags and a funerary epigraph dedicated to the god Mani. On its right side there is a third high-mediaeval epigraph, situated between two lion statues, referring to the building of a fountain. A deep study of the surfaces allows to verify that the blocks were worked on several occasions, with an extremely long interval, and that come from an undefined number of buildings of the town. Therefore the handiwork represents an interesting abacus of workings, decorative elements, an exemplar of material culture with centuries of town history written on.
A FEW OF HISTORY
(Source: “Isernia. Strade, vie vicoli, piazze, l’onomastica storica” by Fernando Cefalogli – Cosmo Iannone Editor)
The present “Fontana Fraterna” raised in the Conception Square in 1835, with the pieces of two different fountains, one with five “jets” next to the Cathedral atrium and the other one (ruined by the earthquake in 1805) with three “jets”, already existing in the Conception Square. We ignore the fountain where the renowned but obscure inscription of Rampiniani’s comes from (in fact, upon the right side, a worked stone containing an epigraph and an escutcheon is set. The epigraph recites: FONS ISTE/CUIUS POSIT/RAMPINIANI/ME PARABIS; the escutcheon is formed by a relief shield with an hooked cross and people think it belonged to the Rampino’s).
While, we know the origin of the other two Roman inscriptions on the “Fontana Fraterna”; as the canonical Vincenzo Piccoli asserts on a manuscript of 1824 kept in the Record Office of Naples, you can see the lapidary inscription AE PONT in the “market fountain”, while the other epigraph, D.M.S. FUNDANIAE SECURAE PESCENNIUS SECURUS NEC IMMERITO exists in the “fountain of the Conception”.
Mommsen, who was in Isernia in 1844, observed the epigraph AE PONT in the “fountain of the Conception”, but with his extraordinary precision, noticed that it came from the market fountain. At this point we have to update our knowledge about the Fontana Fraterna; in fact, it had a difficult life. It was certainly built with materials coming from Roman monuments, but also with stony pieces of following epochs.
In 1835 the Fontana Fraterna was rebuilt in “the Conception Square”, also using stones of an “other ancient fountain” situated on the Cathedral wall on the Northern side just after the San Pietro Arch; in that occasion was “raised the inner façade as far as eight spans” (before, it was seven spans high) and lengthened from nine to ten spans.
In the same file of the Municipal Historical Archives there is also all the documentation about other works on the renowned fountain: in 1889 (with Enrico Cimorelli as mayor) the fountain was moved from the square in front of the Church of the Conception and collocated a little farer, on Marcelli road, “close to Leone’s house”. It was here, on the 10th of September 1943, when the air raid by the Allies broken it up completely; during the immediate Postwar it was rebuilt using its same pieces, in an environment completely shocked by the bombs fury. We have to do the last observation about this distinguished monument, symbol of the town of Isernia: in every document of the Municipal Historical Archives, the fountain always and everywhere is called “Fountain of the Conception”, while in some nineteenth-century documents is denominated “Fraterna”, as old people call it nowadays, because of the ancient square name; the expression “Fontana Fraterna” appeared just in the 20th century.
So the history of this monumental fountain, also present in the “Enciclopedia Treccani” among the most beautiful ones, has to be rewritten in the whole, with its historical, architectural and symbolic relevance.
THE MELTED FOUNTAIN
(Source: Altri Itinerari – Document kept in the Municipal Historical Archives of Isernia)
In the survey of 1935 there are many evidences about the union operation of the two fountains existing before the present Fountain of the Conception. Felice Caruso reports in detail some dimensional elements of the fountain that he arranged to take to pieces.
At the first point of the survey he affirms that the inner façade of the pre-existing three-jets fountain was 9 Neapolitan spans long (1 span=0,26455 metres, so 2,38 metres) and 7 span high (1.85 metres).
The new fountain should have had the inner façade 23 spans long (6.08 metres) and 8 spans high (2.01 metres). Comparing with the data of the present fountain, it is 5.95 metres long and 2.01 high. In the survey about the new blocks he prescribes to use “burr prop-travertine stone”, actually it is compact, not travertinoid limestone: it is surely a different denomination of the stone, as the so called travertine wasn’t removed in the area. The burr prop working leaves some little holes on the stone surface and is carried out through a little one-point chisel bitten by a little dimension hammer and repeatedly moved along the surface.
At the second point of the survey Caruso affirms that a strip has to be created “in front of the arcade covering”, that is situated on the external façade, at the height of the covering. According to the survey, the strip had to be 1 ¾ spans high (0.46 metres), while actually it is 0.39 metres high.
At the third point he describes the covering: it had to be 25 spans long (6.61 metres), while in the real fountain it is 6.39 metres.
At the fourth point Caruso talks about two arches to be added to the existing six ones: each element should have been 4 spans long (1.06 metres), actually the elements of the handiwork have variable measures between 0.90 and 1.02 metres, while they should have been 2 ½ spans high (0.66 m), actually the measure is 0.62 metres.
At the fifth point two little hanging arches are mentioned, “little alcoves” to be added to the ten ones coming from the previous fountains: they had to be “their foundations”: that is each block had to include either the little arch and the inner lunette.
At the eighth point Caruso declares to carry out the complex basement pillar capital, leaning to a circular base semi-column and an octagonal base one, placed at the centre of the fountain. He specifies that either the pillar and the capital come from the working of elements already existing.
At the tenth point he describes the reassembling operation of the “parapet” of the low strip of the fountain. The slabs had to come from a pre-existing handiwork, as Caruso uses the “compositure” word, not the execution one.
At last, at the eleventh and thirteenth point there are interesting notes about the structural technique to be adopted: the lapidary blocks should have been linked with “ciappe”, that is C-clamps, fixed at the stone with melted plumb.