In 1856, Pope Pius IX erected a column dedicated to the Blessed Virgin in the Piazza di Spagna, commemorating the Proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception just two years before, and since that year every reigning pontiff has remembered the Virgin at her column on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Above, the Pope is seen turning onto the Via Condotti which leads to the Piazza di Spagna. The Palazzo Malta is designated by the flags on the right.
The Piazza di Spagna takes its name, of course, from the presence of the King of Spain’s Embassy to the Holy See, which has been located here since the 1620s. Despite the light rain this year, the embassy was bedecked with royal and papal banners according to the usual practice. The Spanish king’s current ambassador can be seen in his diplomatic uniform, his head turned looking back towards the arch of his embassy.
The old French embassy is on the square too, as is Trinità dei Monti, the French church in Rome, but the Romans have decided to honour the Spaniards with a certain toponymical suzerainty over the area. After all, the splendid flight of stairs rising from the French palazzo to the French church is called the Spanish Steps. The French have removed their papal mission to near the Porta Pia and their better-known embassy in Rome is the Palazzo Farnese. That is France’s embassy to the Italian Republic, purchased in 1874, retaken by Mussolini but rented back to the French for a 99-year lease ending in 2035.