Column of the Immaculate Conception, Rome

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The Column of the Immaculate Conception or la Colonna dell'Immacolata, is a nineteenth-century monument in central Rome, located in what is called Piazza Mignanelli, but is only the south west extension of Piazza di Spagna. It was placed aptly in front of the offices of the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide (offices for promulgating the faith), now renamed the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The monument was designed by the architect Luigi Poletti and commissioned by Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies. In part, he wanted to put closure to the dispute between Naples and the Papal States that had developed in the last century, when Naples abolished the Chinea, a yearly tribute offered to the Pope as ultimate sovereign of Naples.

The column was dedicated on December 8, 1857. It celebrated the recently adopted (1854) dogma of the Immaculate Conception. The dogma had been proclaimed ex cathedra in the papal bull Ineffabilis Deus of Pope Pius IX. The structure is a square marble base with statues of biblical figures at the corners that uphold a column of Cipollino marble of 11.8 meters. Atop the column is a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary, sculpted by Giuseppe Obici. The standard imagery of the immaculate conception is used: a virgin on a crescent, atop the world, stomping a serpent (a symbol of the original sin assigned to all women since Eve, except the Virgin Mary). The Corinthian column itself was sculpted in ancient Rome, and was discovered in 1777 during the construction of the monastery of Santa Maria della Concezione located in this area, the site of the former Campus Martius. At the base are four statues of Hebrew figures that gave portent of the virgin birth, each accompanied by a quote of a biblical verse in Latin, including David (by Adam Tadolini), Isaiah (by Salvatore Revelli), Ezekiel (by Carlo Chelli), and Moses (by Ignazio Jacometti).

Biblical Statues at Base of Colonna dell'Imacolata
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Moses by Jacometti
Isaiah by Revelli
David by Tadolini
Ezekiel by Carlo Chelli


The statue of Moses was the source of a satirical joke involving the nearby statue of Pasquino, wherein the Roman statue was said to have tried to talk to the biblical statue, only to be replied with a whistle. When the Pasquin statue asked why he could not talked, some mention was made to the sibilant posture of the statue's lips. In this piazza, now thronged with young tourists out on stroll, the whistling may have other connotations. The statue also has the horns of light iconography.

Work on the monument before inauguration was putatively aided by over two hundred local firefighters, and supposedly this led to the firemen of Rome participate in a ceremony at the statue. Every December 8, a ceremony is held here, often with the pope in attendance, where a fire truck is used to place a bouquet around the right arm of the Virgin Mary statue.



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