|Santa Maria in Aracoeli|
|English name:||Our Lady at the Heavenly Altar|
|Dedication:||Blessed Virgin Mary|
|Titular church||Salvatore De Giorgi|
|Artists:||Carlo Rainaldi, Andrea Sansovino, Andrea Bregno et.al.|
|Address:|| 4 Piazza del Campidoglio |
|Phone:||06 69 76 38 38|
Santa Maria in Aracoeli is the city church of Rome, a basilica dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons. 
There are two versions (both from the 4th century) of the origin of the church. One claims that the Blessed Virgin appeared to the emperor Augustus at this site, the second that the birth of the Son of God was foretold to the emperor by an oracle here. The legend is mentioned in the Mirabilia, c. 1140.
The first church was built by Greek monks in the 6th century on the site of a temple to Juno. After some time, probably no later than the 10th century, the Benedictines replaced the Greeks. In 1249, a papal bull granted Santa Maria in Araceoli to the Franciscans, who built the present church, while incorporating many elements from the older building.
In the 14th century, Cola di Rienzo seized power in Rome, and proclaimed himself Tribune and Liberator of the Holy Roman Republic. After winning a battle against the nobles, he dedicated his sword at the altar of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. A few years later, he was killed at the foot of the steps to the church (there is a small statue of him in the garden to the right). In the middle ages, condemned criminals were executed at the foot of the steps
On October 15th, 1764, the British historian Edward Gibbon sat in this church when, in his own words, "the idea of writing the decline and fall of the city first started to [his] mind." 23 years later, he published the last volume of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
The façade is largely original, but was never completed according to the original plans. The three doors are of a later date. Above the side door, at the rear of the church, is a mosaic of The Madonna and Two Angels by the school of Pietro Cavallini.
From the Piazza del Campidoglio, you can see that the church has Gothic windows.
The impressive staircase leading up to the church, which comprises124 steps, was designed by L. di Simone Andreozzi in 1348, and donated as a thanksgiving for the deliverance of the city from the plague.
The church is made up of a nave and two aisles, The 22 antique columns were salvaged from a variety of anicent buildings. The third column on the left, which has the words IN CUBICULO AUGUSTORUM carved into it, is said to have come from one of the bedrooms (cubicula) of the imperial palace on the Palatine.
The fourth column on the left has a fresco of the Madonna and Child, thought to be the work of a 15th century artist from Siena.
The gilded, wooden ceiling, one of the glories of the church, commemorates the Battle of Lepanto (1571), and depicts, in the centre, the Virgin and Child.
Tombs by the entranceEdit
To the right of the central door is the tomb of Archdeacon Giovanni Crivelli, which is signed by Donatello. The tombstone was designed to be set into the floor, but has been left standing. It was made between 1432 and 1433 and is now very worn. On the same side is the tomb of Cardinal Louis d'Albret (died 1465) by Andrea Bregno.
The first chapel in the right aisle is decorated with paintings of St Bernardino of Siena by Pinturicchio (c. 1480-1485). Note that the Burial of the Saint on the left-hand wall slants to the right to adjust for the position of the viewer standing just outside the chapel. The frescoes were restored by Vincenzo Camuccini.
Between the second and third chapels (Cappella della Pietá and Cappella di San Bonaventura) stands a colossal statue of Pope Gregory XIII by Pier Paolo Olivieri (16th century).
Inside the side entrance is a monument to Pietro da Vicenza by Andrea Sansovino and the tomb of Cecchino Brachi (died 1545) by Pietro Urbano (after a design by Michelangelo).
Cappella di San PasqualeEdit
The chapel has two paintings by Daniele Seiter, in the style of Caravaggio.
Right Transept Edit
Here you will find the tomb of Fra Juniper, a companion of St Francis (who is known from the Fioretti) as well as the tombs of Pope Honorius IV (1285-1287) and Luca Savelli (c.1287). The latter is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio. The papal tomb was designed for Vana Aldobrandeschi, wife of Luca Savelli and mother of Pope Honorius IV.
Cappella di Santa RosaEdit
The mosaic of Our Lady Enthroned between St John the Baptist and St Francis is dated to the late 13th century.
Sancturary and high altarEdit
In the sanctuary, there is a Byzantine icon of the Madonna and Child, known as the Madonna d'Aracoeli. It is painted on beech wood, and is traditionally dated to the 11th century. Some scholars claim that it might be older, perhaps as old as the 6th century; they connect it with the Greek monks who built the first church here. This icon was venerated and carried through the streets of Rome during the great plague of 1348, and the short duration of that plague is ascribed to the intercession of the Madonna of Aracoeli. It was crowned in 1636, but the crown was stolen by French troops in 1797. A new crown was added in 1938, and in 1949 the Roman people were consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary before this icon. Raphael's Madonna of Foligno hung here from 1512 to 1565; it is now in the Vatican gallery. The tomb of Sigismondo Conti, who commissioned the painting, is in the pavement on the right side.
The early 14th century tomb of Cardinal Matteo d'Acquasparta O.F.M. (died 1302) is surmounted by a fresco attributed to Cavallini.
Cappella del Santo BambinoEdit
A door in the transept leads to the Chapel of the Holy Child, which houses a copy of the Santissimo Bambino. The original 15th century statue, which was made from olive wood from the Garden of Gethsemane, was stolen in 1994. It is not the most beautiful of statues, but many miraculous cures have been attributed to it. The church gets many letters addressed to the Holy Child, all of which are placed before the statue unopened. They are intended for the Christ Child not the priests.
Chapel of St Helena
The relics of St Helena are kept in an urn, which is stored in an octagonal temple (18th century). Through a grille at the foot of the monument, you can see some early Christian sculpture. St Frances of Rome is said to have levitated while praying in this chapel. It was reconstructed in the 19th century.
The pulpit or ambo, as it is called in the Byzantine tradition, was made c. 1200 by L. og G. Tebaldo.
Cappella del Presepio/CribEdit
The second chapel on the left, counting from the entrance, is open only around Christmas, when the Santissimo Bambino is placed in a crib. The church is often crowded at this time, especially when children come to recite poems by the crib.
Cappella di Sant'AntonioEdit
The fresco was painted c. 1450 by Benozzo Gozzoli. On the right is the Tomb of Antonio Albertoni, made c. 1509.
Between this and the second chapel stands a statue of Pope Paul III.
Cappella di San PaoloEdit
The very bad painting of St Paul the Apostle is by Girolamo Muziano. On the left is the tomb of Filippo Della Valle, the work of the school of Andrea Riccio. Cappella di San Michele The chapel, which is dedicated to St Michael the Archangel, was designed by Carlo Rainaldi.
At the end of the aisle, you can find the gravestone of Felice de Fredis, who, in January 1506, unearthed the celebrated statue of Laocöon, which is now in the Vatican Museums.