This beautiful church has a history as colorful as it is! Santa Maria di Collemaggio is a minor basilica in L'Aquila, the site of the original Papal Jubilee. The first pope to celebrate the occasion is actually interred here. It is situated at the end of a large, rectangular park at the very southwestern edge of town. It is described as Abruzzese Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The interior is much more austere than its colorful fašade, however.
Its founding is somewhat interesting: a traveling Cappuccin missionary, actually the founder of the Celestine Order who would later become a pope, spent the night on a nearby hill in 1274, during which time he experienced a vision or dream where the Virgin Mary, situated at the top of a golden staircase surrounded by angels requested that he construct a church on the site in her honor. The Celestines purchased this plot in 1287 and consecrated the church in 1289. The church no longer sits on a hill as the valley was filled in in the nineteenth century. On August 29, the founder, Pietro da Morrone, was actually crowned Pope here, as Celestine V and instituted a plenary indulgence to all those who visited the church and went to confession on the 28th and 29th of August in perpetuity. It's called "The Pardon of St. Celestine," which still widely celebrated here, and it is now considered the ancestor of both the Jubilee and Holy Year, instituted six years later by Pope Boniface VII. Its more recent history is tinged with tragedy, in that parts of the structure suffered major damage in the earthquake of 2009, as its cupola, transept vaults and the triumphal arches collapsed, even though the exterior appears relatively unscathed. It is undergoing major, albeit slow and costly renovations.
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