The Fountain of Bellerophon in Avellino: the monument of the restless prince

by Federico Quagliuolo

There Bellerophon Fountain di Avellino is one of those surprises you meet along the way, perhaps at the end of one gastronomic walk between the Irpinia specialties offered by the restaurants of the capital.

She is famous by the nickname "Fountain of the three cannoli" for the three mouths of water and surprises you with its bluish marbles and its elegant decorations and is the daughter of an act of generosity of Prince Francesco Marino Caracciolo, a character who was the protagonist during the revolt of Masaniello, famous for his proud and indomitable character.

It is a fountain that was built on the ruins of an old and anonymous drinking trough just for beautify the road, which was once one of the many anonymous arteries leading into the city.
Today it is located in a few meters from the historic center and it is a jewel of elegance that gives the pure and fresh water of Mount Partenio.

The Fountain of Bellerophon in Avellino: the monument of the restless prince
A perspective of the street

The signature on the Bellerophon Fountain: Cosimo Fanzago

This fountain was built shortly after the plague epidemic in Avellino (in the 1688 precisely) from Francesco Marino Caracciolo, one of the many children of the noble Neapolitan family which, among the many protagonists of the city's history, has also given its name to Naples waterfront.
The Caracciolo family in fact spent large sums to improve the hygienic conditions of the city of Irpinia, as well as providing food and medical support for the sick. Among the works of renewal of the city there is also this fountain built on ruins of an old stone drinking trough.
The prince decided to hire Cosimo Fanzago, his dearest friend, to create a very elegant monument in a then peripheral part of the city.

bellerophon fountain
A detail of the bellerophon fountain

The legend of Bellerophon and the stolen statue

The Fountain of Bellerophon tells a myth of Greek origin. His real name was Hipponous and became famous for having involuntarily killed the king of Corinth, Bellero.
From this bloody affair began his own adventures to try to purify the soul, now corrupt: it was sent to kill the legendary Chimera, a monster described by Homer like a beast that spat flames with the lion head, goat body and snake head. He succeeded thanks to one ploy and with the help of Pegasus, the very famous winged horse of Greek mythology.
He succeeded in the enterprise by pouring molten lead in the mouth of the Chimera. Then he was sent alone to defeat the army of the Amazons and the Solimi. He succeeded, but he began to feel invincible and sinned of "ubris", the arrogance.

Bellerophon was in fact convinced that he could reach Olympus thanks to the help of Pegasus and the of the, furious at the challenge, they sent a gadfly to sting him. In pain, the Greek hero fell from the flying horse and remained paralyzed for life.
In central niche, empty today, there was one statue which represented Bellerophon in the act of killing the Chimera. It was stolen in the chaos of the 1980 Irpinia earthquake.

Bellerophon Fountain
Bellerophon Fountain

Francesco Marino Caracciolo: the "restless" prince who made a slight to the Pope

The Bellerophon fountain tells a story worthy of the character of Francesco Marino Caracciolo: he was a character restless and proud, lover of art and particularly fond of the territory of Avellino (not surprisingly: he was Prince of Avellino and his family lived in an immense residence ad Atripalda). He was Grand Chancellor in Naples thanks to his uncle's recommendation but, despite the loyalty to Spain, had a history of continuous conflicts with all the powerful, from the Viceroy of Naples to the Pope.
For its impetuous and not very conciliatory temperament towards politics, the scion of the Caracciolo even ended up in prison for having insulted the viceroy.
He even threw one letter of challenge towards the family Column, eternal rival of the Caracciolos, who risked unleashing a feud between noble families.
Among the many daring actions of the prince of Avellino there is also one "Disrespect to the Pope": it was in fact chosen for theto send taxes to Rome that the Kingdom of Naples had to pay to the Papal State every year.
When Caracciolo arrived in Rome, the Pope Innocent X asked him to wait before being received. Disrespected, decided to return to Naples without even having obtained a license from the Pope.

He was a profound lover of culture: Besides finance the best artists of the time (it was indeed close friend of Cosimo Fanzago, author of the Fountain of Bellerofonte), founded in his Atripalda the Academy of the Restless: a better name could not exist!

This proud and irreverent temperament it was as dangerous in politics as it was excellent in battle: Francesco Marino Caracciolo was in fact a fantastic military, who managed to repel the onslaught of the French. He also led the Spanish army against the revolutionaries during the rebellion of Masaniello, with such ferocity as to make him earn respect and consideration by the Duke of Ossuna, the viceroy of the time (former spectator of other bloody riots). It was these military merits that saved him from life imprisonment when, for a political intrigue to his detriment, Caracciolo came to insult the viceroy himself.
He died aged just 41 for disease, after having fought also in Pavia and Salerno against the French who tried to invade the Spanish dominions.

And today, between the arrogance of Bellerophon and the explosive character of Francesco Marino Caracciolo, in a fountain of Avellino hides a story that connects two characters from different eras.

-Federico Quagliuolo


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