Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli

Landmark 1200s church atop a long flight of steps, known for its vibrant frescoes by Pinturicchio. The Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli is not only a significant religious site but also an architectural and artistic gem that reflects the layers of history in Rome. Visitors can appreciate its medieval origins, the artistic contributions of different periods, and the panoramic views from its elevated position on the Capitoline Hill.

The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Altar in Heaven is a titular basilica in Rome, located on the highest summit of the Campidoglio. It is still the designated church of the city council of Rome, which uses the ancient title of Senatus Populusque Romanus.

The Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, often simply referred to as Ara Coeli, is a Roman Catholic basilica located on the Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy. Here are key details about this historic church:

  1. Location:
    • The Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli is situated at the summit of the Capitoline Hill, one of the Seven Hills of Rome. It stands adjacent to the Victor Emmanuel II Monument (Altare della Patria).
  2. History:
    • The basilica has a rich history dating back to the 6th century. It was built on the site where, according to tradition, the Roman Emperor Augustus had a vision that led to the construction of the Ara Primogeniti Dei (Altar of the Firstborn of God).
  3. Architectural Style:
    • The basilica combines elements of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The facade is characterized by a Romanesque porch, and the interior features Gothic arches and decorations.
  4. Ara Coeli:
    • The name “Ara Coeli” translates to “Altar of Heaven” or “Altar of the Sky.” The church’s dedication to the Virgin Mary is associated with a medieval legend that the emperor Augustus erected an altar here in anticipation of the coming of Christ.
  5. Capitoline Hill Connection:
    • The location of the basilica on the Capitoline Hill reflects its connection to the ancient Roman political and religious center. The steps leading to the basilica are known as the “Cordonata” and are part of Michelangelo’s redesign of the Capitoline Hill.
  6. Interior Decorations:
    • The interior of Ara Coeli is known for its rich decorations, including frescoes, sculptures, and gilded details. The church contains numerous chapels dedicated to various saints and religious figures.
  7. Icon of the Child Jesus:
    • One of the notable features of Ara Coeli is the medieval icon of the Child Jesus known as the “Bambino di Ara Coeli.” This icon is particularly venerated, and it is associated with various miraculous events.
  8. Cappella Altieri:
    • The Cappella Altieri is a chapel within the basilica known for its Baroque decorations. It houses the tomb of Pope Clement X.
  9. Museo dell’Ara Coeli:
    • The Museo dell’Ara Coeli is a museum located within the church complex, displaying artifacts and artworks related to the history of Ara Coeli.
  10. Religious Services:
    • The Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli is an active place of worship, and religious services, including Masses and ceremonies, are held regularly.


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