It is the main place of Roman nightlife: Piazza S. Maria in Trastevere. With its fountain and the background of the church, it is certainly one of the most beautiful and romantic squares in Rome. Although it is always as crowded and lively, during the day as at night, on the steps of which parties mainly based on beer and wine are organized (and you are not Roman enough if you have not settled back at least once in your life!) , not all passers-by and tourists know your origins.
Curiously, both are considered the oldest in their respective genres: the church was built in the third century, and is therefore considered the first to be founded in Rome, while the fountain was built in the late 1500s to replace an older one. , which stood in a less central position.
About 2,000 years ago a mysterious phenomenon took place here. According to a legend, one day in 38 BC. a jet of oil suddenly began to gush from the ground. This miraculous phenomenon was given the name of fons olei (source of oil). Over the years, different meanings have begun to be given to the event.
According to the first Christian version, the prodigy would have heralded the birth of Christ. This was probably the reason that prompted Christians to ask the Emperor Alexander Severus (3rd century) to grant them the Taberna Meritoria, a hospice for wounded soldiers located right on this site, and later to build the first church over it.
Another version instead speaks of a different origin of the fons olei. Not far from the square, the first emperor Octavian Augustus loved to attend the naumachia (the famous naval battles), which were held in vast squares flooded for the occasion. The naumachia of Augustus stood right in Trastevere. To fill the square, the emperor had an aqueduct built that collected non-potable water from a location north of Rome, the source of which would be defined as fons olidus (that is, a polluted, dirty source).
According to this theory, therefore, fons olei would simply be a corruption of the expression “fons olidus”.
The legend of the fons olei is remembered in the church of S. Maria in Trastevere. Under the altar, there is the exact point from where the oil would have gushed and there is an inscription that recalls the mysterious prodigy. Then among the marvelous apsidal mosaics that narrate biblical episodes, in the one depicting the birth of Christ the ancient Taberna Meritoria is clearly distinguished, from which a river of oil flows to the Tiber.
I invite all my guests to visit this beautiful square with its beautifully painted church