The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Altar of Heaven (Santa Maria in Aracoeli) is located at the top of the Capitol Hill in Rome and is still the church of Rome’s city council. The biggest attractions of the church is the so-called Buffalini Chapel.
Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church Rome
Opening hours and admission
Opening hours: May till September from 09.00 till 18.30 and October till April from 09.30 till 17.30. Admission: Free.
Santa Maria in Aracoeli Staircase
The staircase leading up to the church is the one to the left of the Cordonata, the bigger staircase that leads to the Piazza del Campidoglio itself. It was on the Aracoeli staircase, however, that Romans used to come together to discuss politics. The staircase was built in 1348 and there are 124 steps if you begin your climb on the left, but only 122 if you start on the right side.
The staircase was built in occasion of the Holy Year, that took place in 1350. (Some people claim that it was built out of gratitude after an epidemic of the plague had ended.)
The first person to have climbed the steps is supposed to have been the politician Cola di Rienzo.
When, in the 17th century, tourists started sleeping on the steps, Prince Caffarelli got rid of them by throwing barrels filled with stones down the stairs.
In the past gamblers sometimes climbed the steps on their knees in the middle of the night, meanwhile reciting prayers to the three wise men Gasparre, Baldassarre and Melchiorre. These were supposed to give them the winning lottery numbers.
The ruins to the left of the staircase belong to an old so-called insula, a sort of apartment building dating back to Imperial Roman times.
History Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church Rome
The oldest version of the Santa Maria in Aracoeli Church dates back to the 6th century.
The present Santa Maria in Aracoeli is the result of a reconstruction in the 13th century. The Franciscans had it constructed at the exact site where Augustus had had the Temple of Juno built after a Sybil had predicted the coming of Christ there.
Thanks to the beauty of the church itself and the picturesque stairs leading up to it nowadays the Santa Maria in Aracoeli on the Capitol Hill has become one of Rome’s most popular churches for weddings.
The coffered Renaissance ceiling and the mosaics depicting the Virgin Mary are the first things one notices upon entering the church.
Its most famous tourist attraction, however, is the Bufalini Chapel, which contains a fresco cycle by Pinturicchio, depicting the life and death of Saint Bernardino of Siena and Saint Francis receiving the stigmata.
Adress and public transport
Address: Scala dell’Arce Capitolina, 14 – Rome (tel. +39 06 69763839). There is a second entrance at the Piazza del Campidoglio. The nearest bus stop is Ara Coeli/Piazza Venezia (lines 30, 51, 81, 83, 85, 87, 118, 130F, 160, 170, 628, C3, N9).