The in 1649. At the top of the obelisk

The center fountain
of the square which is a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture was designed in 1651
by the famous artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini and commissioned by Pope Innocent X.
The fountain features four river gods seated upon the four corners of a rocky
cave that supports an obelisk while animals and vegetation decorate the
fountain. The four river gods, sculpted by various artists under the direction
of Bernini, represent four major rivers of the continents known at that time:
the Danube River
in Europe, the Ganges River in Asia, the Nile
River in Africa and the Rio de la
Plata in the Americas.
The Danube is shown reaching toward the coat of arms of Pope Innocent X, the
Ganges is shown holding a long oar, the Nile is shown with a cloth draped over
his head and the Rio de la Plata is shown recoiling
from a snake. The coat of arms of Pope Innocent X decorates two sides of the
cave. In the center of the fountain stands the Agonale Obelisk (also known as
the Pamphili Obelisk), a Roman copy of an Egyptian obelisk, created during the
reign of Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96). The obelisk, which was found in pieces at
the Circus of Maxentius along the ancient Roman road known as the Appian Way, was
repaired by Bernini at the direction of Pope Innocent X, then brought to Piazza
Navona and erected in the center of the fountain in 1649. At the top of the
obelisk is a dove with an olive branch in its beak which was the emblem of the
Pamphilj family which was the family to which Pope Innocent X belonged. Hieroglyphics, carved by Romans in the first century AD, include the name of
Emperor Domitian, who commissioned the obelisk, as well as the names of
emperors Vespasian and Titus, the father and brother of Domitian. At the base
of the obelisk are four panels engraved with Latin inscriptions. These Latin
inscriptions were an attempted translation of the hieroglyphics on the obelisk,
as recorded in 1650 by the German Jesuit priest and scholar Athanasius Kircher,
a pioneer in the study of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. The translation was
done prior to the discovery in 1799 of the Rosetta Stone, which finally allowed
scholars to decipher hieroglyphic symbols accurately.