Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri
The Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs is a titular basilica
The Latin word basilica , was originally used to describe a Roman public building, usually located in the forum of a Roman town. Public basilicas began to appear in Hellenistic cities in the 2nd century BC.The term was also applied to buildings used for religious purposes...

 church in Rome
Churches of Rome
There are more than 900 churches in Rome. Most, but not all, of these are Roman Catholic, with some notable Roman Catholic Marian churches.The first churches of Rome originated in places where Christians met. They were divided into three categories:...

, built inside the frigidarium
A frigidarium is a large cold pool of Roman baths. It would be entered after the Caldarium and the Tepidarium, which were used to open the pores of the skin. The cold water would close the pores. There would be a small pool of cold water or sometimes a large Swimming pool...

of the Baths of Diocletian
Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian in Rome were the grandest of the public baths, or thermae built by successive emperors. Diocletian's Baths, dedicated in 306, were the largest and most sumptuous of the imperial baths. The baths were built between the years 298 AD and 306 AD...

. The Cardinal priest of the is William Henry Keeler
William Henry Keeler
William Henry Keeler is an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007 and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1994....


The basilica

The basilica is dedicated to the Christian martyrs
Christian martyrs
A Christian martyr is one who is killed for following Christianity, through stoning, crucifixion, burning at the stake or other forms of torture and capital punishment. The word "martyr" comes from the Greek word μάρτυς, mártys, which means "witness."...

, known and unknown. It was also a personal monument of Pope Pius IV
Pope Pius IV
Pope Pius IV , born Giovanni Angelo Medici, was Pope from 1559 to 1565. He is notable for presiding over the culmination of the Council of Trent.-Biography:...

, whose tomb is in the apsidal
In architecture, the apse is a semicircular recess covered with a hemispherical vault or semi-dome...

Tribune (architecture)
Tribune is an ambiguous — and often misused — architectural term which can have several meanings. Today it most often refers to a dais or stage-like platform, or — in a vaguer sense — any place from which a speech can be prominently made.-Etymology:...

 that culminates the series of spaces.

The thermae
In ancient Rome, thermae and balnea were facilities for bathing...

of Diocletian dominated the Quirinal Hill
Quirinal Hill
The Quirinal Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome, at the north-east of the city center. It is the location of the official residence of the Italian Head of State, who resides in the Quirinal Palace; by metonymy "the Quirinal" has come to stand for the Italian President.- History :It was...

 with their ruined mass and had successfully resisted Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

. Michelangelo Buonarroti worked from 1563 to 1564 to adapt a section of the remaining structure of the baths to enclose a church. Some later construction directed by Luigi Vanvitelli
Luigi Vanvitelli
Luigi Vanvitelli was an Italian engineer and architect. The most prominent 18th-century architect of Italy, he practiced a sober classicizing academic Late Baroque style that made an easy transition to Neoclassicism.-Biography:Vanvitelli was born at Naples, the son of a Dutch painter of land and...

 in 1749 only superficially distracts from the grand and harmonious Michelangelesque volumes. At Santa Maria degli Angeli, Michelangelo achieved an unexampled sequence of shaped architectural spaces with few precedents or followers. There is no true facade (illustration); the simple entrance is set within one of the coved apses of a main space of the thermae. The plan is developed from a Greek cross, with a transept
For the periodical go to The Transept.A transept is a transverse section, of any building, which lies across the main body of the building. In Christian churches, a transept is an area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform building in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture...

 so dominant, with its cubical chapels at each end, that the effect is of a transverse nave.

The vestibule with canted corners and identical side chapels leads to a second vestibule, repeated on the far side of the transept, dominated by the over lifesize Saint Bruno of Cologne
Bruno of Cologne
Saint Bruno of Cologne , the founder of the Carthusian Order, personally founded the order's first two communities...

by Jean Antoine Houdon (1766). The great vaulted transept gives a striking display of the magnificent scale of Roman constructions, 90.8 meters long, and with the floor that Michelangelo raised to bring it up to the Seicento street level, 28 meters high. Raising the floor truncated the red granite Roman columns (illustration on left) that articulate the transept and its flanking spaces. Michelangelo made the transept 27 meters wide, thus providing vast cubical spaces at each end of the transept.

In 2006, Polish-born sculptor Igor Mitoraj
Igor Mitoraj
Igor Mitoraj is a Polish artist born in Oederan, Germany.-Biography:He studied painting at the Kraków School of Art and at the Kraków Academy of Art under Tadeusz Kantor. After graduating, he had several joint exhibitions, and held his first solo exhibition in 1967 at the Krzysztofory Gallery in...

 created new bronze doors as well as a statue of John the Baptist
John the Baptist
John the Baptist was an itinerant preacher and a major religious figure mentioned in the Canonical gospels. He is described in the Gospel of Luke as a relative of Jesus, who led a movement of baptism at the Jordan River...

 for the basilica
The Latin word basilica , was originally used to describe a Roman public building, usually located in the forum of a Roman town. Public basilicas began to appear in Hellenistic cities in the 2nd century BC.The term was also applied to buildings used for religious purposes...


In April 2010, a five metre high bronze statue of Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei
Galileo Galilei , was an Italian physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who played a major role in the Scientific Revolution. His achievements include improvements to the telescope and consequent astronomical observations and support for Copernicanism...

 Divine Man (designed by 1957 Nobel laureate Tsung-Dao Lee
Tsung-Dao Lee
Tsung-Dao Lee is a Chinese born-American physicist, well known for his work on parity violation, the Lee Model, particle physics, relativistic heavy ion physics, nontopological solitons and soliton stars....

) was unveiled in a courtyard within the complex. The statue (a dedication to the 17th century scientist and philosopher) was a donation from CCAST (China Center of Advanced Science and Technology
China Center of Advanced Science and Technology
The China Center of Advanced Science and Technology was established on October 17, 1986 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Government.- History :...

) and WFS (World Federation of Scientists).
Santa Maria degli Angeli was the official state church during the Kingdom of Italy (1870-1946). More recently, national burials have been held in the church. The church hosts the tombs of General Armando Diaz
Armando Diaz
Armando Diaz, 1st Duca della Vittoria was an Italian general and a Marshal of Italy.Born in Naples, Diaz began his military career as a student at the Military Academy of Turin, where he became an artillery officer. He was a colonel commanding the 93rd infantry during the Italo-Turkish War, and...

 and Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel
Paolo Thaon di Revel
Paolo Emilio Thaon di Revel, 1st Duca del Mare was an Italian admiral of the Royal Italian Navy during World War I and later a politician....

, who were the commanders responsible for winning World War I on the Italian front
Italian Campaign (World War I)
The Italian campaign refers to a series of battles fought between the armies of Austria-Hungary and Italy, along with their allies, in northern Italy between 1915 and 1918. Italy hoped that by joining the countries of the Triple Entente against the Central Powers it would gain Cisalpine Tyrol , the...

.Also today the Basilica is used for many ceremonies, included the funeral of soldiers killed aboard.

William Henry Keeler
William Henry Keeler
William Henry Keeler is an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007 and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1994....

 is the Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Mariae Angelorum in Thermis.

The meridian line

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Pope Clement XI
Pope Clement XI
Pope Clement XI , born Giovanni Francesco Albani, was Pope from 1700 until his death in 1721.-Early life:...

 commissioned the astronomer, mathematician, archaeologist, historian and philosopher Francesco Bianchini
Francesco Bianchini
Francesco Bianchini was an Italian philosopher and scientist. He worked for the curia of three popes, including being camiere d`honore of Clement XI, and secretary of the commission for the reform of the calendar, working on the method to calculate the astronomically correct date for Easter in a...

 to build a meridian line, a sort of sundial
A sundial is a device that measures time by the position of the Sun. In common designs such as the horizontal sundial, the sun casts a shadow from its style onto a surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. The style is the time-telling edge of the gnomon, often a thin rod or a...

, within the basilica. Completed in 1702, the object had a threefold purpose: the pope wanted to check the accuracy of the Gregorian reformation of the calendar
Gregorian calendar
The Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar, or Christian calendar, is the internationally accepted civil calendar. It was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII, after whom the calendar was named, by a decree signed on 24 February 1582, a papal bull known by its opening words Inter...

, to produce a tool to predict Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

 exactly, and, not least, to give Rome a meridian line as important as the one Giovanni Domenico Cassini
Giovanni Domenico Cassini
This article is about the Italian-born astronomer. For his French-born great-grandson, see Jean-Dominique Cassini.Giovanni Domenico Cassini was an Italian/French mathematician, astronomer, engineer, and astrologer...

 had recently built in Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

's cathedral, San Petronio. This church was chosen for several reasons: (1) Like other baths in Rome, the building was already naturally southerly oriented, so as to receive unobstructed exposure to the sun; (2) the height of the walls allowed for a long line to measure the sun's progress through the year more precisely; (3) the ancient walls had long since stopped settling into the ground, ensuring that carefully calibrated observational instruments set in them would not move out of place; and (4) because it was set in the former baths of Diocletian
Diocletian |latinized]] upon his accession to Diocletian . c. 22 December 244  – 3 December 311), was a Roman Emperor from 284 to 305....

, it would symbolically represent a victory of the Christian calendar over the earlier pagan calendar.

Bianchini's sundial was built along the meridian that crosses Rome, at longitude 12° 30' E. At solar noon
Noon is usually defined as 12 o'clock in the daytime. The word noon is also used informally to mean midday regarding the location of the sun not the middle of a persons day. Although this is a time around the middle of the day when people in many countries take a lunch break...

, which varies according to the equation of time
Equation of time
The equation of time is the difference between apparent solar time and mean solar time. At any given instant, this difference will be the same for every observer...

 from around 10:54 a.m. UTC
Coordinated Universal Time
Coordinated Universal Time is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is one of several closely related successors to Greenwich Mean Time. Computer servers, online services and other entities that rely on having a universally accepted time use UTC for that purpose...

 in late October to 11.24 a.m. UTC in February (11:54 to 12:24 CET
Central European Time
Central European Time , used in most parts of the European Union, is a standard time that is 1 hour ahead of Coordinated Universal Time . The time offset from UTC can be written as +01:00...

), the sun shines through a small hole in the wall to cast its light on this line each day. At the summer solstice
A solstice is an astronomical event that happens twice each year when the Sun's apparent position in the sky, as viewed from Earth, reaches its northernmost or southernmost extremes...

, the sun appears highest, and its ray hits the meridian line at the point closest to the wall. At the winter solstice, the ray crosses the line at the point furthest from the wall. At either equinox
An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth's axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth's equator...

, the sun touches the line between the these two extremes. The longer the meridian line, the more accurately the observer can calculate the length of the year. The meridian line built here is 45 meters long and is composed of bronze
Bronze is a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle, and it was particularly significant in antiquity, so much so that the Bronze Age was named after the metal...

, enclosed in yellow-white marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...


In addition to using the line to measure the sun's meridian crossing, Bianchini also added holes in the ceiling to mark the passage of stars. Inside the interior, darkened by covering the windows, Polaris
Polaris |Alpha]] Ursae Minoris, commonly North Star or Pole Star, also Lodestar) is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor. It is very close to the north celestial pole, making it the current northern pole star....

, Arcturus and Sirius
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. With a visual apparent magnitude of −1.46, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. The name "Sirius" is derived from the Ancient Greek: Seirios . The star has the Bayer designation Alpha Canis Majoris...

were observed through these holes with the aid of a telescope to determine their right ascensions and declinations. The meridian line was restored in 2002 for the tricentenary of its construction, and it is still operational today.

External links

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