05 Jun 2011
Our trip to Rome included some big discoveries. Jaw-dropping, in fact. Completely unexpected. On the first day of our arrival to Rome, June 1, 2011, we arrived in the afternoon. We were tired and weary, but the Hotel Opera Roma put us in good spirits (highly recommended). They had a wonderful map with names of all the streets and so we went out and the first church we ran into was the Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri or St. Mary of the Angels and Martyrs. Imagine our surprise in the late afternoon as we walked in and saw zodiac signs in marble, on the floor! Being an astrologer, I just stood there, my mouth agape. Catholic church? Astrology? I thought the two were poisonous to one another? Not here, apparently. But then, a wider picture began to develop.
Michaelangelo, one of the foremost sculptures and painters of the Rennaisssance, had been employed to create the design for this basilica. The history of the basilica goes back to Roman times when this hill was the baths for Roman people. The Emperor Diocletian dominated the Quirinal Hill. Michaelangelo worked from 1563 to 1564 to adapt a section of the remaining structure of the baths to enclose a church. Later, the MERIDIAN LINE was put in at the beginning of the eighteenth century, “Pope Clement XI commissioned the astronomer, mathematician, archaeologist, historian and philosopher Francesco Bianchini to build a meridian line, a sort of sundial, 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, to produce a tool to predict Easter exactly, and, not least, to give Rome a meridian line as important as the one Giovanni Domenico Cassini had recently built in Bologna’s cathedral, San Petronio.”
“Bianchini’s sundial was built along the meridian that crosses Rome, at longitude 12° 30′ E. At solar noon, which varies according to the equation of time from around 10:54 a.m. UTC in late October to 11.24 a.m. UTC in February (11:54 to 12:24 CET), the sun shines through a small hole in the wall to cast its light on this line each day. At the summer solstice, 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, 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, enclosed in yellow-white marble.
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, Arcturus and Sirius 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.”
What is failed to mention is along the Meridian Line, of course, are the twelve zodiac signs! Capricorn, the winter solstices, is at one end very near the altar of the church. And the long white line, with the aid of an overhead light high up on the ceiling of the church, projects a beam for each solstice and equinox…and it works to this day. I like the fact that Michaelangelo had a direct hand in this basilica. And then we had a world class scientist construct the Meridian in the 18th century. The Catholic church had it created to tell Gregorian calendar time. But for astrologers, it’s far more than that. I confirms the use of the stars and constellations and our relationship with them here on Earth. Even though the church did not recognize science, it still employed it.
Here’s the zodiac signs on the floor of this magnificent basilica:
And last, but not least, Pisces!
I hope you have enjoyed this brief history into the zodiac signs on the floor of this basilica. Like all great churches built in Europe, they spanned hundreds of years and many, many artists, scientists and clergy who over saw the labor. This is a magnificent church and I urge all astrology minded folks from around the world to come and appreciate what has been created.