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The first time I saw the hydraulic artifact of the Olive tree Fountain I could not believe my eyes, I even had to look for the gardener working in the Patio de los Naranjos:
-Excuse sir!, when did they installed this artifact here?. To which he answered:
-You certainly do not come often around here. This artifact has been here since the XIXth century.

I had to laugh while he insisted: yes sir, since the XIXth century. I visit the Patio de los Naranjos very often since I was only a child and never had I seen such a thing. However, to my embarrassment, the sly gardener was right. In deed that artifact was from the XIXth century. And even though what we now see in the fountain is a contemporary replica, the original, despite broken down and rusted, rests displayed inside the Mezquita.

The matter stirred my curiosity and first thing I did: I resorted to books looking for answers. Thanks to Nieto Cumplido and his “La Catedral de Córdoba” (The Cathedral of Córdoba) I realized that, despite fountains and water being key elements of the patio from its very beginning, the Olive tree Fountain as we now know it dates from 1741 and it was a work by Tomás Jerónimo de Pedrajas, the town hall general contractor. It is even more interesting the following words: “An excellent sprinkler was added to the long pylon in the middle of the fountain, among its waters; and the sprinkler pours water through different inventions (…) The referred inventions were but a set of silver chimes revolving to the push of water”.

I realized two things: one, from the very beginning the sprinkler was designed so that it included the possibility of installing these inventions. And two, the text states “inventions” in plural so it must have been more than silver chimes.

Little more is there to find out, since little more has been written about these inventions in the books I consulted. However, since the fountain was very popular in the city –it provided with fresh water to most of the Cathedral district– I am sure that the Olive tree Fountain must have been appealing to many photographers in search of ethnographic postcards. So I prepared myself to track them and see if any other information on these water artifacts would come up. I sensed that there were other inventions but not as much as I then found. It is likely that I have missed many others, lost pictures and pictures not taken.

Who is the creator of these inventions? Perhaps they are the result of someone’s hobby in the Town Hall. Someone keen on hydraulics that managed to entertain the Parrish with its inventions. The spot was also very well chosen as it became a true show within the walls of the Mezquita, maybe the first of its kind. Laugh all you want but at the time, with no TV, no Internet, no radio, no nothing, only plain conversation as main resource of entertainment, to see a dancing dummy or a ball floating should have been quite the scene, at least while the jug was being filled with water. These artifacts had quite an audience since, as mentioned earlier, most of the Cathedral district depended on that fountain for fresh water. I would say the creator of this funny little wonders could very well be Patricio Furriel, the all-purpose organist  of the Cathedral that worked with music, the Mirhab tiles and, why not, the sprinklers of the fountains. We have already gone through the biography of this curious character in a previous post.

LET US SEE NOW THE FOUND ARTIFACTS

In this first picture we can see the original artifact that was replicated, working at full speed. The picture could date from the end of the XIXth century. Below, the same artifact now resting rusted in one of the showcases inside the Cathedral’s Museum. We ought to say that this invention was probably not the first one and that it was conformed by a set of silver chimes although there are also bells tolling to the pass of water.

Second artifact. In this stereoscopic picture, also dating from the XIXth century, we can notice that the dispenser has a big added nozzle that sprays water at a considerable height. I ignore if it did other things such as revolving or changing the way of dispensing the water stream, I bet it did.

This third invention is beautiful. It seems the only with a rotation movement, due to water pressure. It looks like a joker, a harlequin, a little devil. It seems made of die-cut iron, there is not a single trace of it, only this photo as a long lasting record.

Fourth artifact. I found this last one in an old press clipping and it is very interesting. A little basket that has drawings in the base, that I am not able to distinguish, holds in its interior one or two balls that are pushed out by the water stream and keeps and equilibrium at top of it. Such a cute invention!

Well! and this is the last photograph I would like to display so you can see the dispenser without the artifact installed and compare it to the previews pictures. And I will leave you with the words from poet Luis Bedmar…

To the Olive tree Fountain take me, mother, to drink, to see if a boyfriend I will have, for I am dying of thirst.

 Also, remember to drink from the pipe closest to the Olive tree if you wish to marry next year!

*Inquiries by Luis Calvo Anguís


 

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