Santa Maria in Ara Coeli

Piazza del Campidoglio - 00186 Rome

The name Ara Coeli means altar of the skyand was born by the legend.

The world was still pagan, Jesus was not born yet but many mysterious
signals announced his coming. And it was really August, the most
remarkable of the roman emperors who was destined to have a vision
while being near the temple on the highest point of
Campidoglio.
The sky opened and between the clouds a very beautiful seated girl
with a child in arms appeared on an altar. August exclaimed
"Here is the altar of the God's son!" and fell into knees
as it is said.

To remember this miracle the Franciscans in 1200 built
la Chiesa sul Tempio di Giunone Moneta where the miracle event
had place and which was called Santa Maria in Ara Coeli.
Having consecrated in 1291 the stairs is a gift to the Virgin
for to have ceased the plague; it was unveiled by Cola di Rienzo
in 1348. The stairs present something more than the architectural
model. It transmits the medieval sense of the life for us:
a hard pilgrimage going step by step towards a mystic sky-blue altar.

Beside to this stair there is another Renaissance one that takes to
Campidoglio.
The contrast between the stiffness of one stair and the delicacy
of the other one let us distinguish the difference of the times.

The simple façade in bricks dates to the XIIth century;
the basilical interior gives an example of the Roman art between
the XIIIth and the XVIIIth century. The rich engraved ceiling
dates to 1575. On the high altar there is a fresco of Madonna
with The Child of the X-XIth centuries. The Sagrestia included
the venerated statue of the Holy Child of the XVth century
covered by very precious ex- vote.It was stolen in February 1994.

Among the numerous famous works of art there are those signed by Donatello, Pietro Cavallini,
Benozzo Gozzoli and the cycle of San Bernardino stories created by Pinturicchio in 1486
stands out.

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