The Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio: the first Jubilee

A national monument since 1902, the Basilica in Collemaggio de L’Aquila, outside the city walls on the hill of the same name, is one of the best examples of Abruzzo’s architecture.

The church was built in 1288 by Pietro da Morrone, who would become pope as Celestine V only six years later. It has protected its founder’s mortal remains since 1327.

The structure’s façade is a renowned masterpiece of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture, and is covered in the local white and pink stone, set in a geometric pattern of crosses and diamonds. The decorative elements are finely made and bear testimony to the great skill and diversity of the workers employed. In contrast, the layout is simple and echoes Cistercian architecture, as well as the humble lifestyle Pietro da Morrone encouraged.

The basilica hosts an annual jubilee instituted by the “Bull of Forgiveness” issued on 29 September 1294: known as the “Celestine Forgiveness Celebration”, it is considered the first jubilee in history. Lasting only one day, between 28 and 29 August, it grants a plenary indulgence to the faithful who walk through the Holy Door on the left side of the building to show their penance and contrition. An eagle, symbol of the city, is placed over the portal.

Some experts claim the basilica might be connected to symbolist and numerology beliefs. For example, its refined rose window features 36 arms and 72 offshoots, and multiplying the two figures the result is the number 2592, which could refer to the precession of the equinoxes. Another example are the three two-color “8”s that are hit by the sunlight streaming through the rose window every 21 June, and the sequence of elements in the floors inside the church – including a “maze” formed by six concentric circles, which compose the same design that is present in the Oratory of Santa Maria del Ponte in Roio.

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The Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio: the first Jubilee

Piazzale Collemaggio, 5


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