Basilica of Saint Mary of Angels and Martyrs

Basilica of Saint Mary of Angels and Martyrs

This is a unique example of a church incorporated into an ancient Roman structure. It is originally designed by Michelangelo and can be easily missed by tourists since from the outside it looks only like remains of an ancient building typical of Rome.

The full name of the basilica in Italian is: “Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri” and as the name suggests it is dedicated to Saint Mary and all Angels and Martyrs, known and unknown. The church was built inside the ruins of an ancient roman building - the baths of Diocletian. This is the reason why the church does not have a facade typical of other churches. The walls of one section of the baths were used for the construction of the basilica, which is why it looks different from all others in the city.
In 1561, the construction project was given to the famous artist and architect Michelangelo, who was 86 years old at that time. He worked on this project till his death in 1564 and did not have the chance to see the project finalized. The basilica was finished by his student, who somewhat changed the original design. The additional changes in design happened over time but it is still possible to see the original parts designed by Michelangelo.

Ticket price for Basilica of Saint Mary of Angels and Martyrs
The entrance to the church is FREE of charge.

Working hours of Basilica of Saint Mary of Angels and Martyrs
From Monday to Sunday working hours are: 7:30-19:00h.
On Sunday working hours are: 7:30-19:30h.

Interesting facts

  • Pope Clement XI commissioned a meridian line (sundial) to be incorporated into the basilica, and this project was completed in 1702. The work was carried out by Francesco Bianchin, an astronomer and mathematician. There were three reasons for commissioning such a dial: Pope wanted to test the reforms of the calendar carried out by Pope Gregory, to have a way of predicting Easter accurately and to give the people of Rome a meridian line similar to the one built in Bologna a little before that.
  • This very church was chosen for constructing the meridian line (sundial) for the following reasons: high walls allowed longer beam of light necessary for precise measuring; because it was built inside an ancient building (the Baths of Diocletian) firm foundations and walls guaranteed precise measurements. And finally, being built inside the baths of Diocletian (a Roman imperator), it symbolized the victory of the new calendar (Gregorian calendar-in use by most countries today) over the “pagan” one defined by Caesar.
  • The basilica of Saint Mary of Angels and Martyrs was the official church (for official ceremonies) during the Kingdom of Italy, while nowadays it is used for burial ceremonies for important citizens, as well as for deceased soldiers.
  • In the basilica there are graves of Papa Pio IV and also of Italian generals that fought in the First World War and were credited for Italian victory in this war.

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