Santa Maria Scala Coeli

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Santa Maria Scala Coeli (Saint Mary of the Stairway to Heaven[1]), church on the site of St Paul the Apostle's prison,[2] on Via delle Tre Fontane in Rome.

The present church was built by Giacomo della Porta on top of an earlier one. On the stairs leading to it can be seen writing and drawings scratched into the stone, probably information from the architect to the builders. The church contains a mosaic by Francesco Zucca.

An old tradition claims that 10,000 Christian slaves who died while building the Baths of Diocletian are buried in the church's crypt, and are venerated as St Zeno[3] and Companions. Some dead slaves from this project are likely buried in catacombs in the nearby hillside, though the 10,000 figure must be exaggerated.

The church belongs to the Trappist Tre Fontane Abbey. It was already used by the Romanian Orthodox community in Rome before November 2002 when, to mark the visit to Rome of Teoctist, Patriarch of Romania, Pope John Paul II officially granted it to them. Previously, they had also gathered in the Chapel of Our Lady of Genezano off Via Cavour, but that chapel had become too small.


  1. ^ The name of the church refers to a vision St Bernard had in the crypt. While praying, he saw souls of the departed entering Heaven by a ladder through his prayer.
  2. ^ The crypt is held to be the prison where he was held before his martyrdom
  3. ^ Though his relics were moved to Santa Prassede in the 9th century.

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Coordinates: 41°50′03″N 12°28′59″E / 41.8342°N 12.4831°E / 41.8342; 12.4831