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Sep 2, 2013

The unusual columns in Santa Maria in Aracoeli.

Madonna del Rifugio.
Santa Maria in Aracoeli is one of the oldest churches in Rome:  located on the highest summit of the Capitol hill where, according to Medieval legends, the Tiburtine Sybil would have announced Augustus the coming of Christ. Built on the ruins of the Temple of Juno Moneta, its first construction should date back to 6th century.  Rebuilt by the Franciscans in the XIII century, its grand stairway was offered as an ex-voto for the end of the plague in 1348. 

Edward Gibbon writes in his Memoirs:  'It was in Rome, on the 15th of October 1764, as I sat musing amid the ruins of the Capitol, while the bare-footed friars were singing vespers in the Temple of Jupiter [the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli] that the idea of writing the decline and the fall of the city first started to my mind'. 

A fascinating contrast between Classical art and Christianity pervades the interior of the church.  It could be epitomized by the curios ancient columns of the nave: colossal columns recycled from ancient monuments and painted between XIV and XV century!

St. Luke.
Madonna of the Column.
A mysterious column (the third on the left) bears the inscription A CUBICULO AUGUSTORUM.  Probably originally in the imperial palace, it is surprisingly perforated. 
That strange hole might have been used for astronomical observations.


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