It was 1622 when the former Monaldeschi Palace, right in the heart of the papal city, became the seat of the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See. Today the Palazzo di Spagna, purchased in 1647 and so prestigious that it even gave its name to the most famous and visited square in Rome, is celebrating its first 400 years. To inaugurate the celebrations, a new ephemeral structure, as per the seventeenth-century tradition, designed for the facade by the visual anthropologist Roberto Lucifero, which will remain on display until the end of the year.
“An announcement that aroused great curiosity”, says Ambassador Isabel Celaà shortly before the inaugural party in the square, with music, dances, exclusive guests but also a crowd of passers-by and onlookers. “Actually – she says – it’s a fun that we needed, given the tragedy we went through”.
In a new “digital Baroque”, as Lucifer defines it, the structure is made up of large banners printed on micro-perforated PVC, which recall the loosely woven canvas paintings of 400 years ago. “We worked in a team of over ten people – he says – We wanted a historical reconstruction, which was rigorously philological, but with imaginative elements”.
At the center of the story, the seventeenth century, or the period richest in evidence of relations between the Holy See and Spain, with three scenes in blue, the color chosen for the “cameo effect” but also “to pierce the facade with a celestial effect” .
In the first scene, Don Inigo Vélez de Guevara y Tassis, eighth Earl of Onate and third Earl of Villameridiana celebrates his diplomatic success in having bought Palazzo Monaldeschi to resell it to the Spanish Government; the second captures Diego Velázquez portraying Pope Innocent X under the watchful gaze of his trusted adviser Donna Olimpia Pamphilj (“surrounded by canvases that really belonged to the family collection”); and the third, on the wide-open door, takes up an ephemeral apartment designed by Claude Lorrain commissioned by the Spanish Ambassador don Manuel de Moura y Corte Real on the occasion of the accession to the throne of Ferdinand III from Habsburg, as husband of Anna of Spain. Plus the explicit references to binomials such as art and power, faith and reason, dialogue and peace.
“As in the seventeenth century the display of an ephemeral structure was a party for the whole neighborhood – continues Lucifer – we too wanted an ‘open’ party, a little pop, involving the local band. This square is different from all the others. in Rome. There are embassies, large companies, international brands: it is a sort of global village. It is not important if the lady who goes shopping understands our scenes immediately, but that she can dream and maybe want to know more thanks to the QR Code available “.
The oldest permanent diplomatic seat in the world, Palazzo di Spagna is also one of the best preserved treasures of art and culture in the capital, “almost a furnished royal palace”, says Lucifer, in a succession of halls, tapestries, paintings and sculptures. “The biggest surprises? Bernini’s two busts – he replies confidently – But also the many legends of these rooms”.
On the occasion of the 400th anniversary, the Embassy also inaugurates a calendar of appointments including conferences, concerts, meetings, by invitation only. “But we are aware of how nice it would be to be able to open the building to the public – says Councilor Minister Felix Costales – We are thinking about how to do it in the most appropriate way, working for a few days with open doors after the summer”. (HANDLE).

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