Sixtus V's Acqua Felice



Sixtus V's Acqua Felice


While Sixtus V’s pontificate (1585-90) may have been short-lived, his legacy in the Eternal City has been just that–eternal. The Pope’s nonstop fervor for using public reform as a means of promoting himself, the Church, and Rome led him to complete several urbanization projects that had been planned by his predecessors but never executed. Ten days after Sixtus V began his pontificate, the Pope inspected a potential water source for an aqueduct the previous pope, Gregory XIII (1572-85), had planned, and immediately ordered work for the project to begin. Sixtus V overcame "every impediment" that had plagued Gregorio XIII.

Employing two thousand men continuously for eighteen months, from 1585 to 1587, with a cost of construction estimated at 270,000 scudi, Sixtus V's aqueduct project was a large ordeal, but its completion reaped large rewards for the Pope. The construction of the new aqueduct, the Acqua Felice, named after Sixtus V whose given name was Felice Peretti Montalto, sparked revitalization across Rome. In 1587, Felice water reached the Quirinal in monumental fashion, terminating in the Fountain of Moses at the hill's peak.

The urban landscape of three unpopulated, water-deprived hills of Rome–the Esquiline, Quirinal, and Capitoline–transformed as the arrival of fresh water prompted Sixtus V to commission various water features connected to the new aqueduct. Although such commissions brought welfare for the Roman people and new life to various regions in Rome, through these civic undertakings, Sixtus V ultimately sought to further his agenda, to secure his legacy by putting the stamp of his papacy on the modern landscape of Rome.


Giovanni Fontana


Rinne, Katherine Wentworth. The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.

Rinne, Katherine Wentworth. "Aquae Urbis Romae." Waters of Rome.

Marder, Tod. "Sixtus V and the Quirinal." Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 37, no. 4 (1978).


Sixtus V






Rome, Italy


Giovanni Fontana, “Sixtus V's Acqua Felice,” Italian Baroque Art, accessed January 24, 2021,