25 Jan 2015

The Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Rome


A very early morning train journey into Rome's Termini Station on our way back to the airport last October gave me time to take a walk from Piazza dei Cinquecento across to Piazza della Repubblica and go into the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli.  I've passed the building many times, but only vaguely remember going inside once before.


This church was built on the ruins of the Baths of the Emperor Diocletian with a complex of buildings (built AD 298) that covered many hectares of land with luxurious baths, exercise rooms, halls and libraries surrounded by gardens. It fell into disrepair when invaders destroyed the aqueducts that fed the Baths in the sixth century. It is now one of the museums in the city that houses the national collection of Roman antiquities.





Pope Pius IV commissioned Michelangelo, then 86, to convert the grand hall of the Baths into a church. Early in the 20th century the frontage at the entrance was removed to reveal the unadorned wall of the caldarium (hot room) of the Baths.  The atrium in the centre of the church was once the tepidarium (warm room).

A huge vestibule leads into the atrium with transepts and chapels either side.
Eight of the pink granite pillars came from the Roman Baths.
North transept
South transept



High altar


The Meridian of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The meridian is a type of sundial. The bronze line set in yellow white marble runs diagonally across the floor of the south transept for 45 m. and finishes in the left part of the choir and was used to regulate the time for Romans until 1846. In 1702 the astronomer and mathematician Francesco Bianchini built this meridian line at the request of Pope Clement XI who wanted to check the accuracy of the Gregorian calendar and exactly work out the moveable date of Easter.  Santa Maria degli Angeli was chosen because of the south orientation of the building, the stability when using sensitive instruments to make calculations and the vast scale and height of the walls which allowed the precise measure of the sun's progress through the year. In addition, holes were constructed in the ceiling to mark the passage of the stars. The line was restored in 2002 and is still operational today.
On the subject of time, a cannon is fired each day at noon on the Janiculum Hill.



Also in the south transept is a model of another device to measure time which you can read about below.





It was good to take time out in a city that I love, even for half an hour or so, in a building which has fascinating elements of the religious, the artistic, the scientific and, of course, the historic under one roof. People were coming in for several reasons; to gaze at the architecture and artistic features, to light a candle and say a prayer.  There was soft taped music playing Gregorian chant- which was pleasing to listen to and a reminder that there was a Carthusian monastery in Michelangelo's day next to the site. I could have gone into the cloisters that remain.

However, I needed to go back into the hustle and bustle of a city beginning a new day where workers were walking purposefully to their offices, students going to their lectures, early morning tourists and travellers were on the move in the nearby bus and railway station.
 



Opposite Santa Maria degli Angeli are the 19th century buildings and colonnades in the Piazza della Repubblica
with the Fontana delle Niadi in the middle.  The buildings follow the line of the Baths of Dioclesian 's benched portico.
The area is a busy one and many visitors probably pass through to more popular tourist sites using buses or the Metro, but I've always walked though the area in the early morning to get to places in the historic centre.


It's a manageable walk along Via Nazionale to Palazzo Venezia and many of the well known tourist attractions. Then I would take short cuts to the Piazza Navona Quarter or the embankment by the River Tiber. Buses and the Metro are useful and sometimes necessary to get across the city, but you notice more when walking, of course.

Today it's cold and dry and the snow has gradually melted leaving some icy patches on the road and pavements so no walking out for me!  Later on I shall join others in recording the birds in our garden as part of the RSPB Birdwatch. Our pet cat is sadly missed after his sudden and traumatic last hours.  I was expecting more birds and different varieties to venture into our garden, but the population and species seem to stay the same; blackbirds and robins except for what I think is a little wren who lurks in the undercover of the hedge. Bigger birds are quite entertaining as they sit in the surrounding neighbourhood trees before flying off.


A few days ago - thankfully all gone now!


40 comments:

  1. There's so much history there, a beautiful building and fantastic artwork. Hope you had more feathered visitors than I did, we usually have a good variety but they always seem to stay away when I'm counting them.

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    1. I've done the garden bird count. The numbers seem to be down this year.

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  2. your photos always amaze me and in the first few photos i was thinking about how in the world they built all this way back then.. when i got to the last photo with that tiny adorable little white car sitting there, i started to wonder what the chariot drivers would think if they could see that car... amazing architecture as always

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    1. An ancient charioteer would be amazed indeed, but I think would be pleased that we still drive on many roads that were built in Roman times.

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  3. forgot to say i had no idea about the pendulum and how they started to count time.. thanks for the info

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    1. I had not really thought much about it either and I'm always learning new things from information on posters, exhibitions and working models such as the ones in this place.

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  4. Hello Linda!

    Lovely pictures! I love to know about the history of the church! I have never heard about it before, so thank you for sharing! I would like to see the Meridian of Santa Maria degli Angeli! It must be magical! This trip is a History lesson! I also love bird watching very much here!

    Have a lovely week!

    Sandra

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    1. I wish that I could have stayed longer in the church. There's always something new to see wherever we go. I hope you'll photograph and post some of the birds you see in your part of the world.

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  5. Such a contrast in your pictures between sun and snow. We did the bird watch too. Like Jo, as soon as I started to count them they all disappeared!

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    1. Re. the birds - that's typical isn't it?!

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  6. There is a pendulum in one of the museums I go to explaining about time,though for the life of me I can't remember which one it is now or whether it was on the west coast or east coast. The building is beyond amazing Linda. Absolutely glorious. Thank you for sharing it with so much history. Fascinating indeed!

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    1. Glad you found this interesting Denise.

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  7. Hello Linda

    Such wonderful photos, I am like you I enjoy visiting churches and often stare in wonder and amazement at the work involved to produce such beauty.
    The architecture is just breathtaking, and no matter how many visits you will always find somthing new to see.

    Have you every been to Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire (National Trust)

    luv
    irene
    xxxx

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    1. I'm never satisfied with my photos. It always depends on the light what comes out, but I'm glad I'm able to record what I see. I haven't been to Fountains Abbey as we haven't had time to explore north Yorkshire except for a few places on the coast.

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  8. The snow is beautiful, but I am glad for you that it is gone now. Such an interesting post, thank you Linda. Beautiful pictures too! xx

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    1. Thank you Amy. I don't think we've seen the last of the snow here, but it's good that the last lot has gone.

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  9. Funnily enough, as I opened your post I had Schubert's Ave Maria playing in the background, how very fitting, and how well the two complimented each other. I found this fascinating, gosh....what history!I can imagine how such a place would appeal to so many different types of people, and how lovely to have the Gregorian chany playing....
    Oh....how beautiful and ethereal that white painting is.....amazing!
    Yes....it's a fact that the birds go missing as soon as the counting begins.
    Ahhhh hugs....your beautiful Gino will always live in your heart.xxx

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    1. Music is powerful in creating an atmosphere. I felt it did so on my visit to the church and it also settled me before the next stage of the journey back to England. I do miss Gino a lot so thanks for the hugs.

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  10. What a fascinating tour! Science, religion, and recreational baths, all in one very old building. Thanks so much for sharing this with us! -Beth

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    1. The layers of history and the way people have used a building and are still using it is fascinating. Glad you enjoyed the tour, Beth.

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  11. Italy is one of the few countrys I would venture back to if I had a passport, there is so uch history to see there.

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    1. There's certainly much to enjoy in Italy. I would like to spend more time revisiting places in Berkshire!

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  12. What a wonderful building - so beautiful and with much of interest too. We did the bird count and of course half of the birds we'd been seeing earlier in the week like the finches and tits didn't appear. We put it down to the milder weather as they all appear when it is colder to feed up to get them through the cold nights. Thank you for your kind comments over on my blog, Linda and have a lovely week:)

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    1. The contrast between the activity of the birds when we had the snow (very quiet) and when it had melted was interesting. I'm leaving plenty of seeds out. According to the weather forecast it's going to get very cold by the end of the week.

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  13. Oh Linda what a lovely post. This trip would certainly have ticked all the boxes for me too. I love Rome, I love Italy and never pass up an opportunity to visit the many churches, cathedrals, museums and galleries whilst there. Thankyou for this. P x

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    1. As much as I love the countryside I do enjoy city walks and the chance to visit galleries, museums and churches. Glad you found the post interesting Patricia.

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  14. What a shame...I can't seem to open your latest post...xxx

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    1. My computer has been playing up and I will check this out.

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  15. I've never been to Rome, but it looks such a fascinating place to visit. Suzy xo

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    1. Thanks for the visit and comment Suzy. Glad you were able to read this post and found it interesting. x

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  16. Beautiful building outside and esp. inside. I loved the last two angels esp. what looked to be a metal one. Fascinating info on time and the background of the place. It's great you were able to get out and walk.

    We just had a big snow storm Sunday and yesterday. It is now snowing again. I am home from school. We have already used up our snow days and are on #7 ( we only get 5 that we don't have to make up). I have a small rental car instead of my SUV (it's in shop), so I'm not venturing out much as I have to take my husband's big truck. Trying to stay warm.

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  17. Hello Beth. Glad to hear from you. The bronze angel sculpture by Ernesto Lamagna is modern (2000), but he copied Michelangelo's methods of working with the metal to produce the patina. The beautiful angel holy water stoup is attributed to being the work of a pupil of Bernini.
    We've heard that you're suffering from the harsh weather. You'll feel the pressure of making up the time when you return to normal and work. Do take care especially on the roads when you get out again.

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  18. bonjour mes " globe trotters "
    l'Italie est un des seuls pays d' Europe que je n'ai jamais visité
    je profite beaucoup de ton reportage
    c'est super
    à bientôt
    tendresse
    edith (iris)

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    1. Thank you the visit to my blog and comment, Edith.

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  19. How fascinating! This church would be one I would also enjoy visiting.
    It is beautiful!

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    1. It's indeed a beautiful church, Marilyn. I meant to say it's also dedicated to the slaves who built the Roman Baths of Diocletian.

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  20. A beautiful set of photos, Linda, and a blue Italian sky is just the thing to look at in these cold, dark winter days! The white Smart car taking centre stage makes me smile.
    I chose the wrong hour for my bird watch, the garden is usually full of visitors. I put out halved apples and other goodies but very few birds put in an appearance, jus a few sparrows and blackbirds, and my busy robin, of course. Keep warm.

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    1. Thank you Rosemary. We're 'snowed in' yet again. Two blackbirds, male and female, are regulars and are welcoming the extra seed I've put out. I haven't seen the robin that usually comes into the garden. All quiet after the snowstorms, but the snow has frozen.

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  21. What an amazing church and how wonderful that they managed to keep so much of the old as they built up newer parts. So beautiful.

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    1. It's fascinating to see such buildings that have been remodelled over the centuries using material from the original such as the granite pillars.

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