Basilica of St Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

The basilica is dedicated to Our Lady, the angels and Christian martyrs, known and unknown. It is located on Piazza della Repubblica and was built on the spot of the ancient ruins of the Baths of Diocletian. According to a legend in 1541 a Sicilian monk had a vision in the ruins of the Baths, therefore Pope Pius IV decided to build a church there. Pope ordered the design to be performed by Michelangelo who started work in 1563 but died a year later and the work was completed in 1566 by his pupil. Michelangelo skillfully adapted the basilica into remaining structures of the baths maintaining their major facilities: presently the facade stands in the caldarium (hot-water bath) and tha major space of the basilica is located in the frigidarium (cold-water baths). According to Michelanglo’s concept central part of the church was made in the shape of a Greek cross that makes it kind of compact. Michelangelo was trying to take advantage of large spaces of the baths, above all demonstrating their magnitude. Length of the transept is over 90 m, width is 27 m. There are cubical spaces at each end of the transept that are occupied by the chapels. Eight ancient columns from the Baths of Diocletian (14 m high each) support three cross-shaped vaults. Another eight columns, that are imitations, were added during the reconstruction works in the XVIII century. The central nave, 29 meters in height, is adorned with the picturesque canvases moved here in the XVIII century from the Old St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican.

The interior of the church is decorated with sculptures and paintings including works of French artists of the XVII-XVIII centuries, the statue of Saint Bruno created by Jean Antoine Houdon. The church is famous for the extraordinary attraction located on the floor in the left part of the transept. It is the meridian line that at the beginning of the XVIII century Pope Clement XI commissioned to lay to the astronomer, mathematician, archaeologist, historian and philosopher Francesco Bianchini. At the end of the XIX century the clocks were still synchronized with this meridian line. Another interesting object in the basilica is the unique organ that was granted by the city of Rome to Pope Giovanni Paolo II for the anniversary year 2000. The body of the organ is made of the cherry tree. It is 12 m high and 11 m long. Basilica of St Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs is the burial place for Salvator Rosa, the Italian artist and poet of the XVII century, architect Carlo Maratta who participated in reconstruction of the church. A visit to the basilica leaves an impression that the spirit of the great artist still lives in this magnificent architectural masterpiece. In close proximity to the basilica in the Piazza della Repubblica there is one of the most beautiful fountains of the Eternal City – the Fountain of Naiads.

Address: Piazza della Repubblica
Opening hours: daily 7 am – 7.30 pm
How to reach: metro Repubblica - Teatro dell'Opera
Coordinates: 41.903185, 12.496918