This impressive 16th-century basilica is set in the ruins of the Roman Baths of Diocletian, and its remarkable interior—designed by Michelangelo—is testament to the massive size of ancient Roman buildings. The church, located in the heart of Rome, contains a meridian line built in the 1700s to predict the exact date of Easter each year.
The current Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs) is based on a design by Michelangelo, who worked on the church from 1563 to 1564; Luigi Vanvitelli oversaw later renovations. The sumptuous marble Greek-cross interior is decorated with 18th-century paintings, the tomb of Pope Pius IV, and the meridian line sundial—commissioned by Pope Clement XI, built by Francesco Bianchini, and still operational today. Polish sculptor Igor Mitoraj created new bronze doors and a statue of John the Baptist for the basilica in 2006.
Because of its location in the heart of Rome, the basilica is a popular stop on walking or Vespa tours of Christian Rome that also include religious sites like St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Comfortable shoes are recommended if visiting as part of a walking tour.
- Photography without flash is allowed in the basilica.
- Modest attire that covers shoulders and knees is required to enter the church.
- The basilica is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
How to Get There
The Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri is in the ruins of the Terme di Diocleziano, located on Piazza della Repubblica just across from Rome's Termini station and Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. Both of the city's metro lines and numerous bus lines stop at Termini.
When to Get There
The cool and quiet interior of the church is a welcome respite from Rome's midday heat and chaos near the train station, so pop in during the hottest hours of the day.
Italy's Other Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli
Italy has two famous basilicas dedicated to Saint Mary of the Angels: one in Rome and one in Assisi, Umbria, the birthplace of Saint Francis. The Assisi basilica holds the small church called the Porziuncola—the chapel where the Franciscan order began—and is adjacent the saint's miraculous rose garden. Other sights in Assisi include the Basilica di San Francesco with the tomb of St. Francis of Assisi, the Basilica di Santa Chiara, and the castle fortress of Rocca Maggiore.