If you ever have the pleasure to visit Vienna, Austria, there is a very good chance that you will stumble across the Donnerbrunnen, whether you are looking for it, or not. This Baroque fountain is placed in the heart of Neuer Markt Square, so it is pretty much in the middle of all the action. If you are visiting any of the main attractions, you will walk past it at some point. Are you thinking the name "Donnerbrunnen" sounds familiar? Well, it was featured in "Before Sunrise," a 1995 American romantic drama starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.
The actual name of this outdoor fountain is Providentiabrunnen, but no one can remember that! Georg Raphael Donner was the famous sculptor in charge, so his last name and the end of the fountain's official name were married together for a title a little easier to say and remember.
It was back in 1737 that the city of Vienna placed the order for the fountain. In 1739, the piece was presented during the name day for Emperor Karl VI.
Later, when Empress Maria Theresia ruled, the historic piece was deemed inappropriate for public display and she ordered the sculptures be smelt by artist Johann Martin Fischer. Due to the remarkable quality and craftsmanship that went into the original sculptures, Fischer decided to renovate them instead. The newly restored pieces were returned to their place in 1801.
The four figures of the fountain represent the local rivers.
Traun - At the fountain's base, you see a young boy catching a fish. This is Traun.
March - This river is represented by a woman that rests against a relief that depicts a battle. March is a natural border that has proven to be important in Austria's history.
Ybbs - The young girl resting with a jug represented Ybbs.
Enns - This old ferryman rests against a rock, and represents this important river that flows through the Alps.
The figures were deteriorating rapidly, so in 1873 the originals were included in the Baroque collection at Marble Hall. Bronze replicas took their place, which are what you admire when you visit the fountain today.
The allegory of Providentia is seen at the center of the fountain. It represents destiny or foresight, and is said to have foreseen Vienna's great water supply. The male rivers are those of Upper Austria, while Lower Austria's rivers are represented as the female figures.
Donnerbrunnen is so important to the city that it was carefully dismantled and stored during the Second World War, and replaced and reopened in 1947.