The Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli was built on the top of the Capitoline Hill, on the site of the ancient Temple of Juno Moneta. This Christian church was built in 6 century A.D., but in 1291 it was completely reconstructed. The marble stair now decorating the side of the Capitoline Hill was also built in that time.
It was in the Temple of Juno Moneta that the sacred geese were kept. According to legend, the geese once saved Rome. In 390 B.C., when Rome was not as powerful, the Gaul headed by Brennus tried to capture Rome. By night they surrounded and attacked the Capitoline Hill. Everyone slept and even dogs heard nothing, and only the geese of the Temple of Juno Moneta bat their wings and awoke people who managed to repel the attack. After that they began to say that «geese saved Rome».
The word «Aracoeli» means the «Altar of Heaven» and another legend is related with this name. It is known that Octavianus Augustus is recognized as one of the greatest emperors of the Roman Emperor. Augustus ruled over the ancient Rome until 14 A.D. and by the end of his rule the senators decided to build a temple in his honor on the Capitoline Hill. Then the emperor went to a soothsayer and asked her if there would be someone who would be even greater than himself. And the soothsayer said that she saw the birth of the son of God who would be worshiped on the hills of Rome. Then Augustus forbade to build the temple in his honor but ordered to erect the Aracoeli or the Altar of Heaven.
And in 5 century A.D. a Greek basilica was built above it. The legend is confirmed by a column within the church. In 9 century A.D. the Benedictines settled there. And in 1250 they began the reconstruction of old buildings. By 1291 all reconstruction works were completed and the church acquired its today look. The marble stair leading onto the top of the Capitoline Hill and towards the doors of the church also dates back to that time.
The following holy things are kept in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli: the relics of St. Helen Equal-to-the-Apostles (mother of Constantine the Great), the miracle-working icon ofthe Mother of God Madonna Aracoeli (10 century). In the church there were also buried the members of many noble families of the ancient Rome. Some of the tombs were made by Donatello and Michelangelo.