The glory of the Capitol shines on the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. This 13th-century Franciscan church was built on the foundations of the Temple of Juno Moneta, which appears to have been constructed as early as the 6th century BC.
The steep flight of 124 steps known as »Jacob’s Ladder«, which many bridal couples ascend in accordance with an old custom, were added in 1348 (thanks for Rome’s deliverance from the Black Death).
In the Middle Ages, the basilica was the centre of Rome’s political life: the city parliament sat here. After the victory of the naval forces of the West over the Turks at Lepanto in 1571, the interior was renovated. Symbols of ships on the 16th-century wooden ceiling serve as reminders of the naval battle. The scenes on the frescoes of the Cappella Bufalini or di San Bernardino at the beginning of the right aisle, a masterpiece by Bernardino Pinturicchio from around 1485, appear almost like a stage set.
A small temple in the centre of the transept at the front left marks the place where the Tiburtine Sibyl made prophecies: she prophesied to Augustus that a virgin would bear a divine child, who would overturn the altars of the gods; thereupon the emperor is said to have erected an altar on this spot, with the inscription “Ecce Ara Primogeniti Dei” (behold the altar of the first-born God) – now at the top of the triumphal arch. The bones of St Helena, who initiated the search for remains of Jesus Christ in the Holy Land and had his relics brought to Rome, rest below the structure.
According to legend, the statue of the Christ Child, which is revered for working miracles, was carved from an olive tree from the Garden of Gethsemane. At Christmas the bambino is brought into the nave and the children of Rome hold a service in front of him.
Tickets & Tours
Colosseum to Santa Maria in Aracoeli:
Santa Maria in Aracoeli set in the Via di Teatro di Marcello, 1,3 km from (17 min walk) from Colosseum. Bus Lines: 63, 70,75, 81, 87, 95, 160, 170, 204, 628, 640, 716, 780, 781, 810.