Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Churches and sights of Rome

Photo By Peter Watts

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri - PHOTOGRAPHER COMMENT

Panorama taken inside Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri church in Rome. Tripods were not allowed here, so the panorama was shot by hand from the center of the transept looking towards the north end. The vastness of the space is hard to capture, and the building is truly vast.

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Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri - FURTHER INFORMATION

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri - Rome visitor guide showing a virtual tour of 'Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri' linked to an interactive map with local and travel information. 360° panoramas from Roma.

Panorama of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri is on the Piazza della Republica. The volume of space and size of the pillars dwarfs the people in the picture. The painting above the altar is The Apparition of the Virgin Mary to St Bruno by Giovanni Odazzi. The organ to the left of the altar was built in the 1990's.

Like so many of the churches in Rome, Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri is built upon a supernatural event. In 1541 a Sicilian priest, Fr. Antonio Lo Duca, had a vision of angels in the ruins of the Diocletian Baths, and in the 1560's Pope Pius IV ordered a church to be built there. The resulting church was built in the frigidarium of the Baths of Diocletian, recycling some of the building materials and adapting the Baths for the new use. Michelangelo provided the original design for the church.

Major alterations to the church were carried out in 1749 by Luigi Vanvitelli in preparation for the Holy Year of 1750. The interior of S Maria delgi Angeli still follows the layout of the Baths. However, he installed a new front entrance in the long southwest side of the church thereby converting the nave into a huge transept. This transept is 100m long, 27m wide and 28m high. The 8 huge 14m high columns of red granite are original. There is a large statue of St Bruno near the entrance to the transept on the right. One of the special features of the church is the Meridian Line.

The Meridian Line:
The Meridian line, a sort of sundial in the basilica, is an unusual astronomical device. This is found in the floor in the right hand side of the transept. It was built on the order of Pope Clement XI by Francesco Bianchini and had a 3-fold purpose:

  1. the pope wanted to check the accuracy of the Gregorian reformation of the calendar,
  2. to produce a tool to exactly predict Easter,
  3. to give Rome a meridian line as important as the one Bianchini had recently built in Bologna's cathedral, San Petronio

There were several reasons for choosing Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri as the location for this project:

  1. The church was orientated to the south and received unobstructed exposure to the sun
  2. The high walls allowed for a longer line resulting in more accurate measurements.
  3. The walls are ancient, and were thus unlikely to settle or move any further. This meant that carefully calibrated observational instruments set in them would not move out of alignment.
  4. Because it was set in former pagan site, it would represent a victory of the Christian calendar over the earlier pagan calendar.

Bianchini also added holes in the ceiling to allowing one to observe not only the sun but also to mark the passage of stars. Polaris, Arcturus and Sirius are visible through these holes even during the day. The meridian line was restored in 2002 for the tercentenary of its construction.


Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
9 Via Cernaia,
Rome, 185


Metro: Repubblica (A)

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