By Marta Rullan
Rome, Feb 8 (EFE).- The embassy of Spain to the Holy See, the world’s oldest diplomatic mission, is set to celebrate its 400th anniversary by showing its great historic and artistic legacy.
Back in 1622, the Monaldeschi palace became the permanent headquarters of Spanish ambassadors, a milestone that Spain wants to celebrate throughout the year through conferences, books, concerts, masses and other events.
The embassy, refurbished in 2007, was created by King Ferdinand in 1480 and had Gonzalo de Beteta as the first ambassador.
The palace was first rented but then Inigo Velez de Guevara bought it from their owners for 22,000 Roman scudos “at a time when a family of four would live of 4 scudos for a month,” Letizia Rodriguez, the personal assistant to the ambassador, tells Efe.
“He had to take loans from a banker in Genoa,” she says.
The palace, located in the Piazza de Spagna in Rome, was then acquired by the Spanish crown in 1654, when the piazza got its name changed from Trinitatis to Forum Hispanicum.
“We are very proud that the Spanish nation managed to take it and that it was not France, which was very keen on acquiring the palace to take the entire enclave. It would have taken the entire square, with its fantastic butterfly shape,” Rodriguez adds.
The embassy even used to be a theater for 80 years in the 18th century.
The heritage that has been accumulated over time is incalculable, although there is no doubt that the two sculptures by Gian Bernini in 1619 are the “gems” of the embassy.
“Art followed the destiny of the two superpowers of that time, France and Spain, which were not only competing to take over the capital but over the known world,” Rodriguez explains.
Among the 155 ambassadors who held the position were Garcilaso de la Vega and Angel Sanz Briz, who saved more than 6,000 Jews from deportation to Auschwitz when he was a consul in Hungary.
A keynote speech by the director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, will kick off the planned celebrations on February 17.EFE