“Theatres of Water” is how the fountains at Villa D’Este are described.
Villa D’Este is a magnificent villa in Tivoli built between 1560 – 1580 with a series of terraced gardens and magnificent fountains added at many levels. These are a miracle of Renaissance engineering, all powered by gravity, no powered pumps required.
The Fountain of the Organ was built in 1571 by French fountain engineer, Luc Leclerc. Water held in a reservoir, is sent into a cascade, mixing water with air. This is then separated, and the air plays the 144 pipes of the organ which are controlled by a cylinder driven by the water. It was the first of its kind and plays excellent organ music for four minutes. It astonished all who saw it back in the 16th century – when Pope Gregory XII first heard it in 1572, he insisted on opening it up and checking that no-one was playing music within.
The 17th Century apparatus had fallen into decay by the 18th century but was restored to working order in 2003. We can confirm it still plays four pieces of late renaissance music today.