The Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti, much better known as the Spanish Steps, was designed by a little-known Roman architect, Francesco de Sanctis (1679-1731), and built between 1723 and 1725. The steps were financed by a French diplomat, Étienne Gueffier (1573-1660), who left an amount of money in his will expressly for this purpose.
The 136 steps, which link the Piazza di Spagna with the church of Santissima Trinità dei Monti, rise in three distinct flights, a clear reference to the Holy Trinity, to which the church is dedicated.
The four stone balls, which stand at the base of the steps, are alternately decorated with the fleur-de-lys of the French monarchy and the heraldic eagle of the coat of arms of Pope Innocent XIII (r. 1721-24).
The steps sport two large inscriptions in Latin. The longer inscription, on the lower landing, reads: D O M / MAGNIFICAM HANC SPECTATOR QVAM MIRARIS SCALAM / VT COMMODVM AC ORNAMENTVM NON EXIGVVM / REGIO COENOBIO IPSIQ VRBI ALLATVRAM / ANIMO CONCEPIT LEGATAQ SVPREMIS IN TABVLIS PECVNIA / VNDE SVMPTVS SVPPEDITARENTVR CONSTRVI MANDAVIT / NOBILIS GALLVS STEPHANVS GVEFFIER / QVI REGIO IN MINISTERIO DIV PLVRES APVD PONTIFICES / ALIOSQVE SVBLIMES PRINCIPES EGREGIE VERSATVS / ROMAE VIVERE DESIIT XXX JVNII MDCLXI / OPVS AVTEM VARIO RERVM INTERVENTV / PRIMVM SVB CLEMENTE XI / CVM MVLTI PROPONERENTVR MODVLI ET FORMAE / IN DELIBERATIONE POSITVM / DEINDE SVB INNOCENTIO XIII STABILITVM / ET R P BERTRANDI MONSINAT TOLOSATIS / ORD MINORVM S FRANCISCI DE PAVLA CORRECTORIS GENLIS / FIDEI CVRAEQ COMMISSVM AC INCHOATVM / TANDEM BENEDICTO XIII FELICITER SEDENTE / CONFECTVM ABSOLUTVMQUE EST / ANNO IVBILEI M DCC XXV.
The inscription on the upper landing reads: D O M / SEDENTE BENEDICTO XIII / PONT MAX / LVDOVICO XV / IN GALLIIS REGNANTE / EIVSQ APVD SANCTAM SEDEM / NEGOTIIS PRÆPOSITO / MELCHIORE S R ECCLESIÆ / CARDINALI DE POLIGNAC / ARCHIEPISCOPO AVSCITANO / AD SACRÆ ÆDIS ALMÆQVE VRBIS / ORNAMENTVM / AC CIVIVM COMMODVM / MARMOREA SCALA / DIGNO TANTIS AVSPICIIS OPERE / ABSOLVTA / ANNO DOMINI MDCCXXV.
In spring the Spanish Steps are adorned with dozens of terracotta bowls full of azaleas.