Trinità dei Monti
A classic. The Trinità dei Monti stairway is perhaps the most famous postcard in Rome (excluding the Colosseum).
On the right corner of the staircase is the house of the English poet John Keats, a master of Romanticism.
A magnificent villa stood in the spot where the Acqua Vergine came out of the underground conduit to cross the Campo Marzio arches: it was the villa of Lucullus, which occupied the area where today the SS Trinità dei Monti stands.
Trinità del Monte (Pincio)
The church, which in ancient times was called “Trinità del Monte” (in reference to the Pincio), was begun in 1502 by order of Louis XII, king of France and owner of the land, with the intention of granting it to religious of French nationality. Order of S.Francesco da Paola. The works continued throughout the sixteenth century, with a break of 60 years, from 1527 to 1587, due to the serious damage, especially financial, caused by the Sack of Rome. The authors of the factory, traditionally attributed to Giacomo Della Porta, were the architects Annibale Lippi and Gregorio Caronica.
The church, consecrated in 1585 by Pope Sixtus V, was built in Gothic style with stones from the French city of Narbonne, by express wish of King Louis XII. Between 1585 and 1586 Pope Sixtus V commissioned Domenico Fontana to open a road linking the Pincio with the Basilica of S. Maria Maggiore, which was named “Strada Felice” by the name of baptism of the same pontiff, or Felice Peretti. divided into via Sistina, via delle Quattro Fontane, via Agostino Depretis, via Carlo Alberto, via Conte Verde and via di S.Croce in Gerusalemme.
At the end of the works, however, the road level had become decidedly inferior to the entrance of the convent and the church because of the excavations that were necessary to level the route. To remedy the problem, the architect designed and built the stairway with two converging ramps leading to the church: the pillars at the two ends of the staircase have the coat of arms of the Peretti family, the three mountains, and above two beautiful capitals dating back to the XVII century century, two hermes with bas-reliefs depicting S. Luigi.
The façade, with a single order of pilasters and completed by an attic with a central lunette and balustrade, is the work of Carlo Maderno and is projected upwards thanks to the two symmetrical bell towers with an octagonal dome.
The interior consists of a single large nave on which there are six side chapels adorned with valuable works of art, such as the famous “Deposition” by Daniele da Volterra, one of the most famous masterpieces of Michelangelo’s pupil. in his other work, always kept inside the church, the Assumption, he painted the portrait of his master.
Cardinal Du Belly is buried in the church and the miraculous image of the Virgin is venerated, to which, from an exclamation of Pius IX, the title of “Mater Admirabilis” remained.
A wrought iron gate, currently located at the fourth span but originally placed at the height of the cruise, has always been designed to keep the enclosure area separate from the public one.
The restoration and the maximum splendor of the convent
In 1530 the buildings, damaged three years before during the devastating Sacco di Roma, were restored: on this occasion the convent and the cloister were also built, completed in 1570.
Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the convent lived the period of maximum splendor, becoming a thriving center of culture, where it was theology, botany, mathematics and physics, renowned for scientific studies and for the well-stocked library. In 1624 the convent building was completely rebuilt in its current form by the architect Bartolomeo Breccioli.
The French occupation
On 12 February 1798 the convent was occupied by the French troops and suffered serious damage, also for the confiscation of the books of the library and artistic treasures; moreover, French artists settled in monastic environments creating authentic studies, with the same church used as a gallery.
After the fall of Napoleon, the artists were evicted and the whole complex was restored in 1816 by the architect Mazois at the behest of the same king of France, Louis XVIII, who wanted to repay the Napoleonic outrage.
A curious note is given by the fact that during the restoration the architect covered the ancient epigraph below the church’s cornice, “S.Trinitati regum Galliae munificentia and prior elemosynis adiuta minimorum sodalitas struxit ac dd. ann MDLXX”, turning it into “S.Trinitati regum Galliae munificentia Ludovicus XVIII year returned MDCCCXVI”: in practice the construction of the convent was no longer the work of the Minims thanks to the “munificentia” of the king of France but only the latter was highlighted (the ancient epigraph will then brought back to the original diction in the restoration of 1871).
Following the abandonment of the Minims, in 1828, the complex was donated to the Sisters of the Institute of the Sacred Heart, who established a school still in operation and one of the most aristocratic in the city.
The Sallustian obelisk and the Horti Sallustiani
In front of the church there is the Sallustian obelisk, brought to Rome almost certainly by Aureliano and placed in the “Horti Sallustiani” (from which it takes its name). The obelisk, 13.91 meters high, of red granite, is Egyptian-Roman because it was engraved in ancient times in Rome with inscriptions badly copied by the monolith of Piazza del Popolo.
For centuries it lay half-abandoned on the same area as the “Horti Sallustiani” where it was demolished by the hordes of Alaric in 410; in the sixteenth century Sixtus V wanted him to rise before S. Maria degli Angeli, an initiative later faded by the Pope’s death, Clement XII wanted to raise it in 1754 in front of the main facade of S. Giovanni in Laterano but it was not until 1789 that he recovered from the Villa Ludovisi (which occupied a portion of the area of the “Horti Sallustiani”), it was erected in the current position by Giovanni Antinori at the behest of Pius VI in order to make the staircase and the Via dei Condotti as an ideal link with the obelisk of S. Maria Maggiore, visible on the horizon at the end of the “telocchiale” in via Sistina.
It should be noted that this obelisk is the only one to place a different symbol on the cross from the papal one: in fact, you can see the lily of France.
Connections with the city
In the past, from the piazza of Trinità dei Monti the low zone was reached through two non-carriage roads, steep and muddy, placed along the slope of the hill, but the considerable difference in height represented a real break between the two urban poles.
In fact, already in the 16th century the opening of the Via dei Condotti straight line – via della Fontanella di Borghese – via del Clementino (corresponding to the ancient “via Trinitatis”) which connected Piazza di Spagna to the Tiber had conveyed the intense traffic coming from the commercial activities carried out along the river.
Then several projects succeeded to connect the church to the underlying Piazza di Spagna, including that related to a grandiose scenic fountain, but the project could not be carried out due to the large expenses it imposed.
The first to conceive the idea of the staircase was Cardinal Mazzarino in 1660, but the cardinal died and the project was abandoned. We had to wait about 1720, when the architect Francesco de Sanctis’s project was approved by the French (owners of the land) and by Pope Innocent XIII Conti (but only on condition that some imprudent imprints of the work were removed, which originally it provided for the insertion of many French symbols and even an equestrian statue of Louis XIII).
The staircase, completed in 1726, alternates curved sections, straight sections and terraces, constituting one of the most representative examples of the last Baroque art, which summarizes the spectacular and spectacular taste. The solution did not like critics of the time, but was loved by the people, who appreciated its functionality and comfort.
The staircase is divided into a succession of ramps of 12 steps each, to which must be added the four initial steps, for a total of 136: at the beginning we can see the stones with the lilies of France and the eagles of Innocenzo XIII Conti.
Two large inscriptions in Latin, both dating back to 1725, are located along the staircase and document the events: the highest recalls that “Regnando Benedetto XIII Pontifex Maximus, King Louis XV, through his ambassador, provided to furnish this marble staircase to comfort of the people “.
The second one reads like this: “This magnificent staircase, which can be admired here, made to bear little comfort and ornament to the royal convent and the city, was conceived and endowed with a testamentary legacy by the French nobleman Stefano Gueffier, who, after having He was very well looked after by the French affairs of various popes and important princes and died in Rome on June 30, 1661. This stairway, postponed for many difficulties, was first deliberated under Clement XI, when models and drawings were examined, established under Innocent XIII, entrusted to the cure and started by the general corrector of the Minimi of S.Francesco da Paola (Bernardo Monsinat) and finally finished under Benedict XIII, happily reigning in the Holy Year 1725 “.
Characteristic in the nineteenth century the goings of small ciociare in traditional costume that sold flowers along the staircase, tradition then interrupted by the authorities who prohibited the sale of flowers.
Today the staircase is always full of tourists who sit here for a moment of rest but also to enjoy this place so charming and romantic, almost to want to absorb the magical atmosphere.
Here we want to bring back a curious note from Valesio, dating back to August 1737, on the nightlife of the stairway and the two squares that it unites: “An abuse had been introduced, now that people in the heat turn around the city at night, that in Piazza di Spagna and on Mount Pincio there were dances with sounds between men and women, not knowing each other, who came to make news of the cardinal Vicar, sent his performers there and was removed ‘abuse”.
How to get here
Trinità dei Monti can be reached by metro A station Spagna or walk from Piazza Barberini, Via del Corso or Pincio / Villa Borghese.
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