Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli

"Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Wednesday 11th May 2011

inside architecture of S.Maria in Aracoeli, rome, italy

It was founded in the 7th century; in the 10th century it belonged to the Benedictines and from 1250 to the Franciscans. The church occupies an area where the sacred geese of Juno was kept, the one who alerted the Romans to the danger during a siege by the Gauls in 390 b.C.. In 434 b.C. a temple was erected to Juno Moneta, who's name was given to metal money, "moneta", because the Mint was established here as well.

The name of the basilica S.Maria in Aracoeli reminds a legend, according to which Augustus built here an altar "Ara primogeniti Dei", having had a vision of Virgin, after the Tiburtine Sibyl predicted the births of Christ. Nevertheless originally the church was named S.Maria de Capitolio, and later name "in Aracoeli" was derived from an inscription on the 12th century altar mentioning the "ara" of Augustus.

In the Middle Ages the basilica was a kind of forum or political- administrative center of Rome with the popular meetings and discussions. And even at present it still maintains its importance used by Commune of Rome for official religious rites. During the French occupation in 1797, the basilica was de-consecrated and adapted for stables. But after the fall of Napoleon, it returned to its religious functions.
124 steps long marble stairwell  of Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli
The present Romanesque-Gothic aspect of the church was created in the early 14th century. The facade was probably covered by mosaics, and later by frescoes, but at present it is absolutely nude. In its center are the traces of disappeared clock, the first public clock in Rome placed here in 1412.

The vast interior conserved its original aspect and Franciscan atmosphere. The nave is divided from aisles by 22 columns, all different and brought here from various pagan constructions.

There are nine chapels in each aisle. The ceiling of the nave, with naval emblems and much gold ornamentation, dates from 1575 and commemorates the victory of Lepanto in 1671, celebrated in this church.
Beautiful interior architecture column of the Basilica di S.Maria in Aracoeli
To the right of the central door is the tomb of cardinal d'Albert, by AA.Bregno(1465), and a tomb slab of the archdeacon Giovanni Crivelli (1432), by Donatello. On the left is a tomb of astronomer Lodovico Grato Margani (1531), by the school of A.Sansovino.

Right aisle

1st chapel (Cappella Bufalini): frescoes dedicated to St Bernardino, by Pinturicchio (1486). Statue of Gregory XIII, by P.Olivieri; monument of Pietro da Vicenza by A.Sansovino; a tomb of Cecchino Bracci (1545) designed by Michelangelo.

Right transept.

The Savelli Chapel (Cappella di S.Francesco d'Assisi) contains a tomb of Luca Savelli attributed to A.di Cambio, with a 3rd century sarcophagus beneath, and a 14th century tomb of Vana Aldobrandeschi, wife of Luca, with a statue of her son pope Honorius IV.
image of Madonna inside the Basilica di S.Maria in Aracoeli

The grandiose high altar

, containing an ancient (10th century) Byzantine image of Madonna (pictured above), was built in the 18th century, and has a choir above it, where before was a cycle of mosaics by P.Cavallini.

Left transept.

Cappella di S.Elena has a porphyry urn with the relics of S.Elena (St Helen, mother of emperor Constantine), a Cosmatesque altar of late 13th century, located on the site of legendary ara of Augustus. Cappella del SS.Bambino contains a greatly venerated statue of the Infant Christ (60cm long) (pictured below) made of wood of an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane in the late 15th century. This was stolen two times in the past, but restituted; stolen again in 1994, and replaced by a copy.
statue of the Infant Christ inside the Basilica di S.Maria in Aracoeli

Left aisle.

3rd chapel contains a painting by B.Gozzoli, St Anthony with the devoted. The 5th chapel has a painting by G.Muziano, and a tomb of Filippo Della Valle (1494) by Michele Marini. A statue of Paul III is in the middle of the aisle.

The church is preceded by a flight of 124 steps from Piazza d'Aracoeli, built in 1348 by Lorenzo di Simone Andreozzi on expenses of Roman people as a thank-offering for deliverance from a plague. It was considered as a kind of "Holy Staircase" for a series of traditions like: climbing it on the knees for spinsters searching for a husband, for women looking to have a baby or to have enough milk to feed them, or for those who wanted to win lotto (they had to pronounce avemaria and de profundis mentioning Magicians Gaspare, Melchiore and Baldassarre while climbing the stairs on their knees in the night, and listen and notice attentively all that happens around, so to deduce the fortunate numbers).

The 124 steps long marble stairwell was built during C. XIII, according to the legend as a thanksgiving for the end of the pestilence. Its carrying out is due to the will of the Tribune Cola di Rienzo who, upon turning into a tyrant, here spoke to the crowd. During C. XVII foreigners used to sleep on the stairway, until Prince Caffarelli chased them out by making barrels full of rocks roll down the stairs. Standing on top, one avails from a nice panorama on Rome with the domes of Sant'Andrea della Valle and San Pietro.

Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli
First Entrance: Scala dell'Arce Capitolina, 14
Zone: Rione Campitelli (Foro Romano- Campidoglio-P.Venezia) (Roma centro)
Second Entrance: Piazza del Campidoglio
Zone: Rione Campitelli (Foro Romano- Campidoglio-P.Venezia) (Roma centro)
00186, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli is Shown By "Map E Zone" As "132"
May-September: 9.00 am - 12.30 pm and 3.00 pm - 6.00 pm., October-April: 9.00 am - 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm - 5.30 pm
Mass Schedule: Holidays: 8.00 am, 12.00 pm;Weekdays: 8.00 am., Visits are not allowed during Masses. Schedules are subject to change. Please contact the church before visiting.
Telephone: 0039 06 69763839

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