Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Baths of Diocletian

The church of Santa Maria degli Angeli is housed in the former Baths of Diocletian that was built between 298 and 305. The Baths of Diocletian were the largest and most impressive of all the bath complexes in Rome. They occupy 27 acres of land and could accommodate 3000 bathers. The remains of  the cold room “frigidarium” contain the entire church.

The basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei...

The basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, built in the tepidarium of the baths (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Photo credit: Søren Hugger Møller)

The exterior of St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs is the original brick wall of a niche of the calidarium with two doorways. In 2006, Polish-born sculptor Igor Mitoraj created new bronze doors as well as a statue of John the Baptist for the basilica.

English: Interier of Basilica Santa Maria degl...

English: Interier of Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, Rome, Italy Česky: Interiér Baziliky Santa Maria degli Angeli (Roma), Řím, Itálie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Santa Maria degli Angeli et dei Martiri Rome. Door

Santa Maria degli Angeli et dei Martiri Rome. Door (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pope Pius V commissioned Michelangelo to convert the central hall called the tepidarium and the adjoining ruins into the church in 1561 when the artist was 86 years old. He died the following year and the work was completed by his student Giacomo del Duca.

In April 2010, a five metre high bronze statue of Galileo Galilei Divine Man (designed by 1957 Nobel laureate Tsung-Dao Lee) was unveiled in a courtyard within the complex.

Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, Italy: the s...

Santa Maria degli Angeli in Rome, Italy: the sundial incrusted in the ground, created by Francesco Bianchini nel 1702. Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, June 17 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Pope Clement XI commissioned the astronomer, mathematician, archaeologist, historian and philosopher Francesco Bianchini to build a meridian line, a sort of sundial, within the basilica. This Linea Clementina was completed in 1702. It had three objectives: the pope wanted to check the accuracy of the Gregorian reformation of the calendar; to produce a tool to predict Easter exactly and to give Rome a meridian line as important as the one Giovanni Domenico Cassini had recently built in Bologna‘s cathedral, San Petronio.  Since the church was set in the former baths of Diocletian, it would symbolically represent a victory of the Christian calendar over the earlier pagan calendar.

The main altar dates from 1762 with a painting on the apse wall of “St. Mary of the Angels” by a Venetian artist. It was commimissioned by Antonio Del Duca, a Sicilian priest.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com

Angeli e Martiri - Angels and Martyrs

Angeli e Martiri – Angels and Martyrs (Photo credit: zu78)

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2 responses to “Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Baths of Diocletian

  1. Pingback: Happy Birthday Rome 2013 | Vino Con Vista Italy Travel Guides and Events

  2. Pingback: Wine Tourism in the Venato | Vino Con Vista Italy Travel Guides and Events

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