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Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming.” Jesus is coming, and Advent is intended to be a season of preparation for His arrival. While we typically regard Advent as a joyous season, it is also intended to be a period of preparation, much like Lent. Prayer, penance and fasting are appropriate during this season. In Rome the Pope comes from the Vatican in procession escorted by cavalry to Piazza di Spagna in central Rome to put flowers at the top of the column (original from the temple of Venus) where a statue of the Virgin Mary is placed. The statue itself is reworked from an original being Minerva, goddess of Wisdom. All the religious congregations in the City come for this event each year. In recent years given the age of the Pontiff and the height of the column the Fire brigade take up the wreath of flowers.

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The Immaculate Conception, baroque painting by Spanish Francisco de Zurbaran (1598-1664) in the Church of Saint-Gervais, Le Marais, Paris.

The Feast is celebrated on 8 December.

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Here I am in Rome at Piazza di Spagna in front of the famous fountain of della Barcaccia a Baroque-style fountain found at the foot of the Spanish Steps by sculptor Pietro Bernini. The Column to the Immaculate Conception is behind me surrounded by a large crowd on 8 December 2009. At the foot of the column sit 4 Jewish Patriarchs and Prophets Moses, Ezekiel, David and Isaiah.

The Marian monument was designed in 1857 by the architect Luigi Poletti, the actual figure atop was sculpted by Giuseppe Obici and commissioned by Ferdinand II, King of the Two Sicilies.

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The Pope as a visiting Head of State to the territory of the Italian Republic is greeted upon arrival by the Mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi and several other Italian dignitaries.

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