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21. Out of hard marble the tenderness of an Angel

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

By - Giulio D'Ercole . This wonderful sculpture representing a peaceful angel is just a small detail, one of the many marvels one can enjoy in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs (Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri) , a titular basilica church in Rome, built inside the ruined frigidarium of the Roman Baths of Diocletian . Situated in the Piazza della Repubblica, the church was constructed in the 16th century following an original design by world famous multitalented artist Michelangelo Buonarroti. The beauty and the wealth of the religious place has been then increased by many other architects and artists over the following centuries.

The basilica is dedicated to the Christian martyrs, known and unknown. By a brief dated 27 July 1561, Pius IV ordered the church "built", to be dedicated to the Beatissimae Virgini et omnium Angelorum et Martyrum ("the Most Blessed Virgin and all the Angels and Martyrs"). Impetus for this dedication had been generated by the account of a vision experienced in the ruins of the Baths in 1541 by a Sicilian monk, Antonio del Duca, who had been lobbying for decades for papal authorization of a more formal veneration of the Angelic Princes. A story that these Martyrs were Christian slave labourers who had been set to constructing the Baths is modern. It was also a personal monument of Pope Pius IV, whose tomb is in the apsidal tribune.

The thermae of Diocletian dominated the Quirinal Hill with their ruined mass. 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 was directed by Luigi Vanvitelli in 1749.

...... in brief, if you are interested in visiting yet another place in Rome that will somehow overwhelm you with history, art and beauty, come with me to photograph the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

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