Santa Maria in Aracoeli (Rome)

Церковь Санта-Мария-ин-Арачели или Санта-Мария в Аракели (Рим)


Description of Santa Maria in Aracoeli

Церковь Санта-Мария-ин-Арачели или Санта-Мария в Аракели (Рим)

Piazza d'Aracoeli
Tel. 06-679 81 55
Open: 9am- 12:30pm, 3-6 pm daily


Aracoeli Staircase constructed in 1348 leads to the top of the Capitol Hill to this interesting church those origins date back to the 6th century. Current structure date back to rule of Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century. The columns that support the ceiling are very different from each other. All of them were collected from different ancient monuments and temples. The third column on the left as you enter the church come from the bedroom of the emperor Augustus Octavian. Interior frescoes date back as early as 15th century by Pinturicchio (Funeral of St. Bernardino). The church is known for the holy relics belonging to Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine, various small relics from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Here are the remains of St. Uniper, one of the original followers of St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Honorius IV and Queen Catherine Bosnian are also buried in the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli or Santa Maria in Aracoeli. A monogrammed slab of Jesus, which St. Bernardino of Siena used as evidence of devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, is kept in Aracoeli.


Церковь Санта-Мария-ин-Арачели или Санта-Мария в Аракели (Рим)


On the current name, attested from 1323 (it must have entered popular use for some time), there are various hypotheses. The prevailing one traces it back to the legend, reported in the Mirabilia Urbis Romae, according to which the church would have risen where Augustus would have had the vision of a woman with a child in her arms and would have heard a voice saying "This is the altar of the son of God". The sibyl was asked and explained that it was Mary, mother of Jesus, as it is said in the Mirabilia:

«This vision took place in the room of the emperor Octavian, where now is the church of S. Maria in Capitolio. For this reason the church of S. Maria was called Ara del cielo. "



The church was built on the ruins of the Temple of Juno Moneta, which stood on the Arx, one of the two heights of the Capitoline Hill. However, the identification of the site is not certain; according to other studies, the church would in fact rise where the ancient Auguraculum was, the place from which the Auguri took auspices by observing the flight of birds.

The first construction dates back to the 6th century. As in many other cases, buildings gathered around the first church which in the upper part developed into a monastery, while on the slopes of the hill a market was born and then a small neighborhood. Remains of these buildings (the small church of San Biagio del Mercato and the underlying "Insula Romana") came to light in the thirties of the twentieth century.

In a 12th century document that confers ownership of the Montem Capitolii to the (Benedictine) abbot of Santa Maria in Capitolio, the three entrances to the hill at the time are described (you can imagine them as little more than steep paths):
the road that led to the Clivo degli Argentari (the current staircase, which rises from the Mamertine Prison), oriented towards the Suburra;
the "public road that leads under the Capitol" (roughly corresponding to the current Cordonata);
the road that leads to San Teodoro, towards the Forum, which still exists.

The Capitoline Hill had re-emerged to public life in 1143, when the Roman people rebelled against Pope Innocent II had designated Giorgio dei Pierleoni as their leader, designating him Patricius, and had chosen that ancient place as a meeting place (around 1195 the construction of the first Senatorial palace).

In the decades of the dispute between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the square, although approximate and steep, became the physical place of the municipal experience of the city, and with it its church. It was in this climate that Innocent IV granted ownership of the site (church and monastery) to the Franciscans, an order of the new times, in 1250.

These restructured the church, giving it the current Roman-Gothic aspect, and it, in addition to being a place of worship, became the center of the political life of Rome, so much so that popular assemblies of the free municipality were held there. The tuning of the renovated church with the new times of the city was concretely manifested also in the modification of its orientation (first towards the Palazzo Senatorio and the Forum, now towards San Pietro and Campo Marzio), and in the construction of the new imposing staircase, commissioned from the free municipality in 1348, as a vow to the Virgin to put an end to the plague that was raging throughout Europe, and made with bare marble obtained from what remained of the staircase of the Temple of Serapis at the Quirinale; the staircase was then inaugurated by Cola di Rienzo.

More than the papal basilica of San Pietro and the cathedral of San Giovanni, dedicated to celebrating the pomp and power of the popes, the Aracoeli was the church of the Roman people and its civic institutions, especially the nearby Senate.
Here in 1341 Francesco Petrarca was a poet; here took place, in 1571, the triumph of the Roman Marcantonio Colonna, deputy commander of the Catholic League against the Turks under the command of Don Juan of Austria, to celebrate the victory in the battle of Lepanto (for the occasion the ceiling was built that we can still admire today). Here the Te Deum of thanksgiving of the Roman people takes place every end of the year. In the Aracoeli, moreover, the Christmas precept of the Guards of the Pope's Palace was solemnly celebrated, the urban Militia and the Civic Guard first chosen, then the Palatine Guard of honor.

During the occupation of Rome, in 1797, the French took possession of the hill, driving out the Franciscan friars and reducing the church to a stable: most of the Cosmatesque decorations that embellished it were destroyed. The restorations began as early as 1799, the small temple of S. Elena was rebuilt in 1833 and the new choir organ donated by Prince Carlo Torlonia was inaugurated in 1848.

With the unification of Italy, the ownership of the convent passed to the State, which set up barracks and command of the local police. During the construction of the Vittoriano, begun in 1882 and inaugurated in 1911, the buildings that stood between the southern slope of the Capitoline hill and the entrance to Via del Corso were destroyed in several years, including the buildings conventuals connected to the church (in addition to the so-called Tower of Paul III) and the Roman and medieval pre-existences of the site.



The interior has three naves with round arches, a slightly protruding transept, and is equipped with three terminal apse chapels. Its architecture, dating back to the reconstruction of the Franciscan friars begun around 1250 and mostly covered with Baroque decorations, is typical of Roman Gothic, with a thirteenth-century reinterpretation of the classical schemes and stylistic features. The wooden coffered ceiling is from the 16th century, the Cosmatesque floor, preserved except for the inserts of tombstones, from the 13th century.

There are many treasures present in the church. On the counter-façade, to the left of the main portal, there is the funeral monument of Cardinal Ludovico d'Albret, a beautiful work by Andrea Bregno from 1465. Still on the left, the tomb slab dedicated to Giovanni Crivelli, archdeacon of Aquileia, originally placed on the floor, sculpted by Donatello in 1433.

Further on, leaning against the fourth column on the left, there is an altar with the Madonna with Child and dedicating it popularly known as the Madonna del Rifugio (15th century Viterbo school); opposite, symmetrically, another altar to San Giacomo della Marca (much less frequented). Further on, behind the last left and right columns of the main nave, there are two beautiful Cosmati parchments dating back to the beginning of the 13th century and attributed to the Cosmati Lorenzo di Cosma and to their son Jacopo.

Following the map on the side, this is the layout of the chapels:
Left aisle
Chapel 1 - of the Immaculate Conception, donated by Paul III Farnese to Gregorio Serlupi, whose coat of arms stands out in the dome. Cycle of Mannerist frescoes attributed to Francesco Pichi. Mid 16th century.
Chapel 2 - del Presepio, built in the second half of the 16th century, but profoundly altered by the construction of the Vittoriano. The figures, donated by Duke Grazioli in 1863, before being installed were exhibited in Palazzo Grazioli with great competition from the people. At Christmas, the Child of Aracoeli was exhibited there before being stolen.
Chapel 3 - of Sant'Antonio da Padova, under the patronage of the Albertoni (family to which the blessed Ludovica Albertoni belonged), with the family tombs and a Sant'Antonio di Benozzo Gozzoli on the altar.
Chapel 4 - of Sant'Anna, repainted in the nineteenth century.
Chapel 5 - of San Paolo, under the patronage of the Della Valle, houses the Stories of St. Paul painted by Pomarancio.
Chapel 6 - of the Ascension, obtained using a part of the previous one by the will of Vittoria Orsini Frangipani, wife of Camillo Pardo Orsini (bust already attributed to Martino Longhi the Elder and now similar to the style of Pier Paolo Olivieri).
Chapel 7 - of San Michele arcangelo, passed through various owners; the last ones, the Marini Marini Clarelli di Vacone, reused the tombs and "evicted" the portraits of the ancient owners.
Chapel 8 - of Santa Margherita da Cortona; the two side canvases (1732), with scenes from the life of the saint, are by Marco Benefial.
Chapel 9 - of the Madonna of Loreto. It originally belonged to the Colonna family, and housed a thirteenth-century mosaic which was then detached and transferred to the Palazzo Colonna ai Santi Apostoli, where it still stands. The frescoes are by Marzio Ganassini.

10: nineteenth-century temple near the left pulpit, dedicated to St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine. The temple covers a medieval altar (visible through a crystal), built according to the legend where Augustus had a vision of him.
11 - Chapel of the Bambinello.
12 - Chapel of San Gregorio Magno, with a canvas on the altar by Vincenzo Milione from Calabria (1771). The famous composer Emilio De 'Cavalieri is buried there.
13 - High altar: a Byzantine icon from the 10th-11th century is venerated here, depicting the Madonna.
In the left transept we find the Tomb of Cardinal Matteo d'Acquasparta (who died in 1302), ambassador of Boniface VIII and general minister of the minor friars. The monument was made by Giovanni di Cosma while the fresco depicting the Madonna with Child and saints is attributed to Pietro Cavallini.
In the right transept there is instead a funeral monument sculpted by Arnolfo di Cambio (late 13th century).
14 - Altar of the Sacrament


Right aisle
Chapel 15 - of Santa Rosa da Viterbo:.
Chapel 16 - of San Francesco; behind, the oratory of the Immaculate Conception
Chapel 17 - of San Pasquale Baylon: a fresco from the end of the 13th century was recently discovered here, depicting the Madonna and Child between Saints John the Evangelist and the Baptist, attributed to Pietro Cavallini and Jacopo Torriti.
18 - ancient entrance towards the Capitol; still accessible today from the staircase on the left of the Senatorial Palace. The Madonna and Child in the lunette is attributed to Jacopo Torriti. In the passage leading to the outside, there are the Tomb of Cecchino Bracci (died in 1545) designed by Michelangelo and the Tomb of Pietro Manzi, bishop of Cesena, by Andrea Sansovino (1504).
Chapel 19 - of Saints Lorenzo and Diego
Chapel 20 - of St. Peter of Alcántara
Chapel 21 - (Patronage of the Mattei family) of San Matteo. Painting by Gerolamo Muziano with the saint and the angel (initially intended for St. Louis of the French before the arrival of Caravaggio). Painting of the Passion of Christ by Pomarancio.
Chapel 22 - of the Crucifix
Chapel 23 - of St. Jerome
Chapel 24 - della Pietà: on the main altar a Pietà by Marco Pino da Siena (16th century) while on the side walls we find frescoes by Pomarancio from the same period. A beautiful Cosmatesque floor is still in evidence.
Chapel 25 - of San Bernardino, known as the Bufalini Chapel from the name of the client, who wanted to celebrate the peace between his family and the Baglioni of Perugia. Here are the frescoes by Pinturicchio illustrating the Stories of San Bernardino da Siena (1485), together with a beautiful well-preserved Cosmatesque floor.

The mortal remains of the last Queen of Bosnia, Catherine of Bosnia (1425-1478), who became blessed, were buried in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli and entrusted to the care of the Order of Franciscan Friars Minor. The epitaph of her sepulcher has been removed from the floor and is placed to the left of the main altar, on the column next to the pulpit. The original inscription in Bosnian language was replaced with another one in Latin.

The Bambinello dell'Aracoeli
The church was and is famous for the "Holy Child", a wooden sculpture of the infant Jesus carved in the 15th century with olive wood from the Garden of Gethsemane and covered with precious ex voto. According to popular belief, it was endowed with miraculous powers and the faithful went there to ask for pardon for an evil or a misfortune. The statue, stolen in February 1994, has never been found. In its place there is now a copy, which does not lack new ex voto.