staircase was created for two purposes. The first purpose was to replace steep
pathways that once led up to the top of the hill. The second purpose was to
celebrate a peace treaty between France
who had been at war. The Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square) which is located at the
bottom of the hill is the site of the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See and at
the top of the hill was the Church of Trinità dei Monti, which at the time was under the
patronage of the Bourbon kings of France. The steps served to
symbolically unite the two nations by physically uniting the two locations.
The project for the
staircase was initiated by a competition held in 1717 by Pope Innocent XIII and
financed with funds from a French nobleman and diplomat named Étienne Gueffier.
The competition was won by a little-known Roman architect named Francesco De
Sanctis and executed shortly thereafter between 1723 and 1725.
consists of 11 sets of 12 steps with three additional broad steps at the
bottom, for a total of 135 steps. Four pillars at the base of the staircase are
topped with travertine balls that alternately display reliefs of an eagle, the
symbol of Pope Innocent XIII’s coat of arms, and a Fleur-de-lis, representing
the French Bourbons who financed and approved the project.
The staircase is
divided into two sections each separated by a stone balustrade (stone railing).
At the top of the first section of the staircase is a large plaque with a Latin
inscription commemorating the French nobleman and diplomat Étienne Gueffier who
financed the construction of the monument. At the top of the second section of
the staircase is a second large plaque with a Latin inscription commemorating
Pope Benedict XIII who was pope when the staircase was completed, King Louis XV
of France who reigned when the staircase was completed and Cardinal Melchior de
Polignac who was the French ambassador to the Holy See when the staircase was
staircase was called the “Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti” (meaning
Staircase of the Trinity of the Mountains), referring to the Church of the
Santissima Trinità dei Monti which is located at the top of the hill. It soon
came to be referred to as the “Scalinata Spagna” (meaning Spanish
Steps) in reference to the Piazza di Spagna (or Spanish Square) located at the bottom
of the hill, which has been the site of the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See
The Spanish Steps was
a popular gathering place for poets, artists and writers in the eighteenth and
nineenth centuries and has appeared in several popular films throughout the
decades. Today the square and staircase is often filled with locals as well as
visitors to Rome
and in the spring, pots of pink azalea flowers decorate the stairs, adding to