Rome has more than 900 churches which makes it the city with the largest number of churches inside it. Although the majority of the churches are Roman Catholic, there is a significant number of other denominational ones. Santa Maria in Aracoeli is a titular Basillica in the heart of the City. Thousands of tourists visit year round to admire the history and beauty of the Gothic architecture, to see the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli, and to climb up the monumental stairway of 124 steps oustide one of Rome’s most cherished churches.
Located at the highest point of the Capitoline Hill, Santa Maria is the designated Church of the City Council of Rome with a long history. It was built during the sixth century on the site of an ancient Byzantine Abbey. By the ninth century it was first given to the Benedictines and then later by papal bull to the Franciscans in the early thirteenth century. The Franciscans are known to have influenced the Romanesque-Gothic aspect of this church. It was made ‘titular’ in 1517, which means it is a church in Rome assigned to a specific Cardinal priest. The present Cardinal Priest of the Titulus Santa Maria is Salvatore De Giorgi.
The architectural style of Santa Maria is Romanesque, Gothic. Tourists may see the famous Gothic stained-glass window from the bottom of the stairs outside the church. The church contains three naves, divided by twenty-two Roman columns. All of the columns were taken from different antique monuments and Roman ruins. As you glance up you’ll see the beautiful wooden ceiling full of intricate paintings representing the famous Battle of Lepanto in 1571. Surrounded by exquisite paintings created by well-known artists and the famous relics of Saint Helena there is history all throughout the church.
Santo Bambino of Aracoeli
Millions of tourists and local visit to see the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli, which is a wooden image of the Christ Child beleived to ressurect the dead. It is hte most famous object in the church. The wooden statue was made out of olive wood during the fifteenth century. The jewel encrusted object was stolen in 1994 and never found, so a replica is currently used instead.
Stairway to Heaven
The Aracoeli staircase was finished in 1348 to thank the Virgin Mary for the end of the Black Death in Rome, which was a large plague epidemic that killed millions of people. There are 124 marble steps that lead up to the Altar of Heaven which is why it’s often called ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Back in the day people believed if you climbed up all of the stairs on your knees your sins would be forgiven. Woomen who wanted a child or a husband also went up the stairs on their knees.
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Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome
Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli, Scala dell'Arce Capitolina, Rome, Metropolitan City of Rome, Italy