The Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Rome

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli (Saint Mary of the Altar of Heaven) stands atop the Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy.  It is the dedicated church of the Roman City Council (Senatus Populusque Romanus, SPQR) and it stands next to the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II.

During the reign of Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus, adopted nephew of Gauis Julius Caesar, the Tiburtine Sibyl prophesied that “Soon from the sky will descend the King of ages.”  Augustus built an altar called Ara Coeli or the Altar of the Heavens at the site.  Indeed, Jesus Christ was born during the reign of Augustus.

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli is built over the site of Augustus’ Ara Coeli.  Images of Augustus and the Tiburtine Sibyl are painted in the arches over the main altar.  Among the other sights in this basilica are a colossal statue of Pope Gregory XIII to whom we owe the Gregorian Calendar, and a stained glass window of the Holy Spirit.

The greatest treasure of the basilica is, however, a wooden statue of the infant Jesus, carved in the 15th century of olive wood from the Garden of Gethsemane.  The original statue was stolen in 1994 and never recovered.  The image now displayed in the basilica is a copy.

Main Altar of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli

Main Altar of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli

SOURCE:  Main Altar of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli (Rome, Lazio, Italy); photographed by Stephen J. Danko on 12 August 2011.

Statue of Pope Gregory XIII

Statue of Pope Gregory XIII

SOURCE:  Statue of Pope Gregory XIII (Rome, Lazio, Italy); photographed by Stephen J. Danko on 12 August 2011.

Stained Glass Window of the Holy Spirit

Stained Glass Window of the Holy Spirit

SOURCE:  Stained Glass Window of the Holy Spirit (Rome, Lazio, Italy); photographed by Stephen J. Danko on 12 August 2011.

Santo Bambino

Santo Bambino

SOURCE:  Santo Bambino (Rome, Lazio, Italy); photographed by Stephen J. Danko on 12 August 2011.

Copyright © 2011 by Stephen J. Danko

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