Fountain Challenge # 39 – fountains water, Popes, legends and wine!


St Urban Fountain: first erected 1448 (current statue  is a copy of the original and was put in place in 1911, and current trough is from 1874).

The fountain above is one I stumbled across (no, not literally) one night recently on the way home. Luckily the statue is illuminated at night, unusual for Basel. I did debate going to the city today, with my Nikon, to get some daylight shots. However, there were three reasons that held me back 1) there is something mystical about a city at night that let’s you imagine a bygone era 2) I am a romantic at heart and I like the shot 3) it’s  raining today, and the quality of light during rain is not much better than the light at night. Up until 2 days ago I had never really looked at this fountain before. It is an attractive fountain though. And beyond being attractive, it also comes with a great story:

The Cistercian abbey St.Urban, which was founded in the 12th century, in the canton of Lucern owned properties in this area.  When a fountain was erected in 1448 it was named for St. Urban. Although it was never really clear which Urban the fountain was named after, general opinion held that is was likely Pope Urban I, who held the Holy See from 222 to 230. Pope Urban was whipped, locked in a tower, and finally decapitated, which on the bright side did make him a martyr. However, the stories about alleged miracles and the death of Pope Urban I are not very credible. (I have translated the information on Pope Urban from a Basel Website – Basel is very heavily protestant, which may be why doubt is cast on Saint Urban’s miracles). Source. Only his pontificate is assured. The day of Urban’s death was celebrated on the day the saint, which was celebrated on the 25th of May – in the middle of the viticultural season of vines.

bishops-fountain-basel-3The legendary Pope Urban I protects against gout, frost, thunderstorms and lightning. The Saint Urban of the statue also became patron of more fun things including: winemakers, coopers (the guys who make barrels, blogging teaches you a new thing every day), vineyards and wine, all  by accident. The Pontifex Urban was confused with a bishop, the Holy Urban of Langres, who was bishop of Langres and Autun in the second half of the fourth century. At this point in the story of the statue, things become more colourful. One story says Bishop Urban (of Langres) was last heard of in 375 after he fled persecutors and escaped by hiding behind a vine, making him the patron of winemakers and vineyards. Another story says he died in 450 and had the divine gift to command the rain, leading villagers to name him their patron saint.

The statue represents both the Pope and Bishop, the tiara on its head identifies it as Urban the Pope, the grapes in its hand are actually attributes of Urban the bishop.

Before the original statue of St.Urban was placed in the museum in 1830, it was the subject of a special custom. On the 25th of May, the anniversary of his death and the day of the saint,   his tiara was adorned with flowers and a cloak of purple velvet was placed on his shoulders. Additionally, arms were mounted on the statue so that it could hold two glasses of wine:  a glass of red wine in his right hand, a glass of white in his left. If it didn’t rain into into the wine glasses on the 25th of May the vintners predicted a good wine year.  This custom is probably based on holy Urban’s alleged ability to control the rain.


This month’s theme is fountains that are typical for the city you live in, or in this case, intricately linked to the city, area you live. I am aware that not everyone lives in cities as old as the one I am in, and KAZ for example, has declared she is doing “whatever” fountains for Nov and December because the alternative isn’t viable. As far as I am concerned, any fountain is welcome!  Last week’s fountains? Jude posts a twee, little bo-peep with a tea-cup, TGeriatrix shares a regal Justitia with lions, worth looking at this one, it’s red sandstone and a lovely setting. And Kaz posts a fountain that tells the story of the first settlers to Australia all in one simple globe of water. Very beautiful indeed. 

Thanks guys and look forward to this weeks typical submissions (or how you fit the non-typical into the challenge topic) – we continue to be creative that way, which is great!

It’s easy to take part, check out the instructions:

I shall post a fountain each Friday. You are invited to join in by posting one or more of your own fountains within the monththat fit into the theme and either add a link (ping-back) in your post to mine or link to it in a comment on my post. Add the TagFountain Series‘.

You don’t have to post on a Friday.  Any day in the month will do. If you have loads of pictures that fit into a theme, feel free to post several times during the month or create a gallery or whatever works best for you. While I’ve never run a challenge,  I am following Jude’s capable lead and letting myself be inspired by her categories,  so I am feeling hopeful that this will work out🙂. Themes for November:

  • November: A fountain typical for your country, region. Could be a fountain you can top your drinking water bottle up at, a fountain or water source with a flag, with the crest of your city on it etc

18 thoughts on “Fountain Challenge # 39 – fountains water, Popes, legends and wine!

  1. Your fountain posts are always so interesting though I have to confess to becoming completely confused between the Pope Urban and the Saint Urban! I would love to see the statue with his purple cloak and glasses of wine! And I thoroughly approve of a saint for winemakers though protection against gout and frost is no bad thing either!
    Mine is a collection of very similar water features/fountains found all over England’s gardens. Enjoy 🙂

    • Ah the pope and the saint – as my catholic expert in the house says – a pope in life, a saint in death..and in this case Bishop Urban + Pope Urban = Statue Urban with super-powers, but you were probably just teasing me! However, you can see how easily the confusion happened and having a Saints day linked to wine and thus festivities, versus gout and frost, does make a lot of sense for a population that needed to find it’s pleasure where it could…Couldn’t put their feet up with a cuppa and watch TV then could they. Happy Sat Poli

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