The church of S. Maria in Aracoeli, located on the northern summit of the Capitoline Hill ("Arx"), is one of the oldest in Rome, dating back to 343 BC when it was founded by Camillus following his victory over the Aurunci. It is said to have been built next to the temple of Giunone Moneta, hence the name "moneta" attributed to money (the Mint of Rome, known as "Moneta", was originally located at the foot of the Celio, but was destroyed during the fire of AD 80 and rebuilt later). From the Piazza del Campidoglio two staircases, built to a design by Vignola between 1547 and 1552, lead towards the "Capitolium" and the church of S. Maria in Aracoeli, the origin of which is shrouded in mystery. It is said to have been founded by Gregory the Great in 590 and that a Romanesque-style church was built in the 12th century, with a fresco of the "Madonna and Child between two Angels". The Franciscans later changed the orientation of the church and built a new religious building, this time in Gothic style, together with the staircase, in 1348. In the Middle Ages, the church took on not only religious but also civil significance: Cola di Rienzo addressed the people there, Charles of Anjou held parliaments with the Romans there, the Guelphs of Rome defended themselves against the Emperor Henry VII there, elections of the city's Caporioni were also held there. During the French occupation and the Republic of 1797, however, the church was desecrated and used as a stable. Once covered with mosaics and frescoes, the façade of the church has a large brick surface and two portals with three rose windows, the central one of which was removed by order of Urbano VIII (1623-44) to make way for a window with a coloured stained-glass window. There is no clock either: the one installed in December 1412, the first in Rome, was later moved to the façade of the Palazzo Senatorio in 1806. The interior of the church is divided into three naves by 122 columns. One of these, with the inscription "a cubicolo Augustorum", may have been recovered from the emperor's bedroom on the Palatine. The ceiling is decorated with naval motifs to commemorate Marcantonio Colonna's victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. To reach the church you have to climb a flight of 124 steps (122 if you ascend from the right side), inaugurated according to legend by Cola di Rienzo in 1348. Costing 5000 florins, it was allegedly created by Lorenzo di Simone Andreozzi at the expense of the Roman people as a sign of gratitude to the Virgin for saving the city from the plague. S. Maria in Aracoeli is most famous for the "Holy Child" a wooden sculpture from Monte Oliveto, baptised in the River Jordan, following tradition.
Sunday - Saturday
07:00 am-07:00 pm
Some information is provided by:
Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Scala dell'Arce Capitolina, 12, 00186 Roma RM, Italia