Rome’s Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli

One truly special place we went in Rome was Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli atop Capitoline Hill.

We climbed the hundred or so steps to the top on our very last morning there. At that moment, we found ourselves lost in one of the most impressive and eclectic sites we visited in Italy.

To be honest, I forced her to make the hike. A medieval legend included in the mid-12th-century guide to Rome, Mirabilia Urbis Romae, claimed the church was built over an Augustan Ara primogeniti Dei. The Tiburtine Sibyl prophesied to Augustus the coming of the Christ in the same spot.

Artists painted the figures of Augustus and of the Tiburtine sibyl on either side of the high altar.

I’ve got to be real about all of this, I hardly believe that the Sibyls predicted the coming of Christ. The Sibyls are EVERYWHERE across Italy. It is just not realistic that the only reason they are so prominent in artwork and architecture is because one of them made a prediction like that.

These women existed for thousands of years before that. But, of course, very little of their history remains.

The church was originally Juno’s temple and houses the tombs of some of Rome’s most dynamic historical figures. The Cosmati floors—It is no surprise— are its most noted feature. (I’m a little bonkers for Cosmati floors) made from the remains of the ancient temple.

I revisit these photos often as they connect so much of my travels in recent years.

The memento mori we first learned about in Scotland, the floors, the incredible ancient tombs. Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli was a delight. I am so looking forward to heading back to Rome next year for a solo adventure with the Sibylline. See you soon, Bella.