Aix-en-Provence : Place des Quatre Dauphins

Michele Hanrath (January 2006)

Aix en Provence boasts 26 public fountains and many more to be found in court yards and private gardens throughout the city. Along the Cours Mirabeau there are three fountains; the mossy one spills out warm water. Aix has been known for its warm waters since the Roman Consul Sextius built the vast thermal bath complex in 122 BC.

In the 17th century the archbishop of Aix, Michel Marzarin, received permission to enclose the area west of town, which now carries his name, within the walls of Aix. These new streets were laid out in a grid like fashion and here beautiful houses or “hotels“ were built by the many prosperous merchants of Aix of the time. In the middle of this area, then called the place Mazarin, he planned to have a statue erected in honor of his famous brother, Cardinal Jules Mazarin. After the death of the archbishop the residents of the area decided to revise his plans and have a fountain constructed.

In 1667 the sculptor Jean Claude Rambot, inspired by Italian fountains built a round basin in the middle of which is an obelisk supported by four baroques dolphins. (The dolphins have scales and do not resemble what we know as a dolphin.) The structure was crowned by a statue of St Michel which was eventually replaced by a fleur de lys, then after the revolution by a stone pinecone, then again by a Maltese cross in the middle of the 19th century, and finally the pinecone returned.

The square is now named after the fountain, Place des Quatre Dauphins, and became a protected heritage site in 1905.

Copyright © 2008 Anglo-American Group of Provence