Facts about Spanish Steps
One of the longest and widest staircases in Europe and one of the most famous in Rome
The Spanish Steps in Rome are one of the city's most visited landmarks. They are one of the longest and widest staircases in Europe, second only to the famous Potemkin Staircase, a symbol of Odessa. Once besieged by crowds sitting on them, today we can admire them walking from the Spanish Square to the church of Trinita dei Monti. In spring, they are additionally more picturesque thanks to the colorful azaleas presented there by the city authorities.
1Scalinata Trinita dei Monti - called the Spanish Steps are one of the most famous in Rome.
They owe their name to the Mondaleschi palace, the seat of the Spanish embassy to the Holy See. Spain was vital for Rome and the Vatican at that time, that is why the stairs became known as the Spanish Stairs.
2They are located in Piazza di Spagna - Spanish Square, which has become famous thanks to them. Stairs are an immanent part of Piazza di Spagna.
The Spanish Steps connect Piazza di Spagna with the 16th-century church of Trinita dei Monti.
3The staircase as a baroque-rococo composition was created in the years 1723-1725.
They were designed by Francesco de Sanctis and Alessandro Specchi. Long discussions were held on how to urbanize the steep slope on the side of the Pincio (a hill that is one of the seven main hills of Rome) to connect it with the church of the Trinita dei Monti (Church of the Holy Trinity). The solution of De Sanctis was chosen.
4The staircase was made for the Jubilee Year of the Holy Year 1725 (a year of special grace in the Christian tradition, commemorating man's descent from God).
It was commissioned by Cardinal Pierre Guerin de Tencin, Minister of France to the Holy See, during the pontificate of Pope Innocent XIII, who issued a bull declaring 1725 a Holy Year. This bull was promulgated in 1724, after his death, and the Jubilee was celebrated under the pontificate of Benedict XIII.
5The monumental staircase at the top of the long street leading to the Tiber was designed in such a way that the scenic effect gradually increased the closer one approached.
In keeping with Baroque architecture, the idea was to create long, deep perspectives that culminated in a monumental backdrop.
6The stairs consist of 135 steps (some claim 136, but they count drainage platform as a step).
They are made of travertine quarried near Tivoli. In their upper part, there are large terraces from which you can admire the surroundings. On top of the stairs, the church of the Holy Trinity is located. The church is highlighted by the symbolism contained in the shape of the staircase. A pyramid of three terraces (a reference to the Holy Trinity) spreads out like an ocean wave. The wavy lines were intended to emphasize movement as a symbol of life. The lowest and the widest part of the composition was meant to symbolize the power of the Holy Spirit. The monumental staircase is decorated with numerous garden terraces adorned with flowers in spring and summer.
7Every year beautiful azaleas appear on the Spanish Steps.
The City Council organizes an annual spring exhibition of azaleas, a symbol of the Roman spring. They remain on the steps for about a month until the end of their flowering period and then are taken to friendly nurseries. Fashion shows are also held on the steps, and in December the Christmas nativity scene appears there.
8At the top of the stairs sits the 16th-century church Trinita dei Monti, part of the French Community of Emmanuel.
The church was built by order of Louis XII, King of France, who owned the land (previously, there was an extensive vineyard). Construction work went on for almost the entire 16th century. The church was built in the Gothic style with stones from Narbonne (a town in France). It was consecrated in 1585 by Pope Sixtus V. In order to connect the Pincio Hill with the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the construction of a road was decreed. After the road was built, it turned out it is located lower than the church. To solve the problem, the architect designed and built a double staircase with two terraces leading to the church.
9In front of the church is the Sallustiano Obelisk, almost certainly brought to Rome by Lucius Domitius Aurelianus (Roman emperor, one of the most prominent rulers of the second half of the 3rd century).
The obelisk was originally located in the "Salustian Gardens." It is made of red granite and is 13.91 meters high and placed in a way as to correct the not quite axial position of the church in relation to the stairs.
10In former times two roads led down from the church along the hillside, steep and muddy, inaccessible to carriages.
The difference in elevation clearly separated the church from the city below. There were several projects to connect the church with the Piazza di Spagna, but they never came to fruition. It was not until the French, as owners of the land and Pope Innocent XIII, approved De Sanctis' staircase project in 1720 and the construction of the Spanish Steps began. The construction (located near the Spanish Embassy) was intended to celebrate the peace between France and Spain.