The Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli is a church located on the Campidoglio (Capitoline Hill), in Rome, known for housing relics belonging to Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine.
A first church was built here in the 6th century, on the ruins of a Temple dedicated to Juno Moneta. In the 9th century, the church was taken over by the papacy. Near the end of the 12th century, Palazzo Senatorio (Senatorial Palace) was built on the Capitoline Hill, and the area started to develop.
In 1250, the Pope Innocent IV granted the ownership of the church to the Franciscan Order. The Franciscans restored the church, giving it the current Romanesque-Gothic appearance. The imposing marble staircase was built in 1348, as a vow to the Virgin, to put an end to the plague that raged throughout Europe.
During the occupation of Rome, in 1797, the French took possession of the hill, killing the Franciscan friars and reducing the church to a stable. The restorations of the church began as early as 1799, the little temple of Saint Helena was rebuilt in 1833, and the new organ of the choir was inaugurated in 1848.
With the Unification of Italy, the property passed to the State, which installed there the city police. During the construction of the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, several buildings were demolished, including some of the buildings connected to the church.
The unfinished facade has lost its original mosaics and frescoes. The interior, covered with Baroque decorations, has three naves with round arches, a little protruding transept, and three apsidal chapels. The Cosmatesque floor dates back to the 13th century, while the coffered wooden ceiling is from the 16th century.
HOW TO GET THERE
The closest Metro station is Colosseo, about 1.2 kilometers away, on the Metro Line B. The closest bus station is Aracoeli/Piazza Venezia, on the bus Lines 30, 51, 81, 83, 85, 87, 118, 130F, 160, 170 and 628.