The Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli
What you need to know
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli is sited on the Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio) and owes its name to a vision Augustus had in which a beautiful woman holding a child in her arms heard a voice saying “this is the altar of the Son of God”. The woman was, indeed, Mary the Mother of Jesus. Times have been hard for this church, however.
Considered the church of the people, it was deconsecrated during the Napoleonic occupation in 1797 and transformed into a stable; things were no better after the Unification of Italy when it was made the Police Station. The church features three round naves that are divided by 22 columns, and is also full of stunning masterpieces: such as the richly embellished lacunar ceiling and the wonderfully ornate floor.
Also not to be missed is the Cappella Bufalini, with frescos by Pinturicchio and the tombstone of Giovanni Crivelli by Donatello. Moreover, you can admire a copy of the wooden sculpture of the Holy Child; the original, carved out of wood from the garden of Gethsemane, was stolen in 1994 and never found since.
The Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli at a Glance
Opening hours: Every day from 9.00 am to 12.30 pm and 3:00 pm to 6:30 pm.
Directions: Piazza Campidoglio
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