In Piazza Mignanelli, a stone's throw from the Spanish Steps, stands the Colonna dell' Immacolata (Column of the Immaculate Conception).
The column was dedicated on December 8th, 1857, to mark the publication, exactly three years earlier, of the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus in which Pope Pius IX (r. 1846-78), ending centuries of heated debate, declared that the Virgin Mary had been conceived free from the stain of original sin.
The monument was designed by the architect Luigi Poletti (1792-1869) and the bronze statue, which stands atop an ancient Roman column, is the work of Giuseppe Obici. The Virgin Mary, with her crown of twelve stars, crushes a serpent (symbol of original sin) under her foot. At the base of the globe on which she stands are symbols of the four evangelists.
At the foot of the column sit four marble statues, which depict the prophets David (Adam Tadolini), Isaiah (Salvatore Revelli), Ezekiel (Carlo Chelli) and Moses (Ignazio Jacometti), all of whom, it is said, foretold the birth of the Virgin Mary.
The base of the column also sports four reliefs: Annunciation, Joseph's Dream, Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Pope Pius IX and the Promulgation of the Papal Bull, respectively the work of Francesco Gianfredi, Nicola Cantalamessa Papotti, Giovanni Maria Benzoni and Pietro Galli.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated each year on December 8th, which is a public holiday in Italy. Since 1953 it has been the tradition for the pope to lead the celebrations at the Colonna dell' Immacolata. There, he blesses a floral wreath, which is placed on the Virgin Mary's right arm, a task entrusted to the head of Rome's fire brigade.
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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