The Santo Bambino of the Aracoeli

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One of my favourite little pilgrimages in the Eternal City is to the Santo Bambino Gesù in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. Aracoeli means "altar of the heavens." The present basilica stands on the site of an altar built to the glorious Infant God seen by the Emperor Octavian Augustus in a prophetic vision.

The statue of the Infant Jesus dates back to the fifteenth century. It is, according to tradition, the work of a Franciscan friar who carved it from the wood of an olive tree of Gethsemani. Over the centuries, the faithful have honoured this holy image of the Infant Jesus with rich garments, with crowns, and gifts of gold and precious stones. And so continues the procession of the Three Magi bearing gifts.

Every year, little children of all ages address letters of petition to the Santo Bambino. They write to Him as to their King, confident in the merciful goodness of His Heart. During Christmastide the children of Rome visit the crib of the Santo Bambino in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, to preach little sermons, to recite poems, and to sing to Him.


On the 25th of every month it is customary to bless oil taken from the lamp that burns before the Santo Bambino. The oil is distributed in small bottles and is used in praying for the sick. I often use the "Oil of the Infant Jesus" in this way. One can obtain it at the Church of the Aracoeli.

The Child Jesus is Eternal High Priest and King of the Universe. Already in the mysteries of His infancy, He took upon Himself the infirmities and weaknesses of all men. Even as a Child, Our Lord presented Himself before His Father's Face as a Priest offering Himself, the Spotless Lamb. Those drawn to honour and contemplate the Infant Jesus do well to pray for the sick, anointing them with blessed oil, a sacramental of the Church, in His sweet Name. The Name of Jesus is, itself, an oil poured out for the healing of souls and bodies.

The following prayer accompanies the little vials of oil distributed at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli:

O Jesus, Word Made Flesh and King of All Hearts,
behold, I am sick.
Sustained by the liveliest faith in Thee,
with confidence and serenity,
I call upon thy powerful help
in this my infirmity.

During Thy life on earth,
Thou didst restore health to the afflicted,
by making use of natural and material means.
Do Thou then manifest Thy mercy toward me,
as I make use of the blessed oil
taken from before Thy altar.

May Thy holy will be done in my regard.
Grant that I may accept Thy will
for the healing of my soul and body.

Jesus, the one whom Thou lovest is ill.
Jesus, Son of Mary, have pity on me.
Lord, increase my faith.

And another prayer is also recommended:

Most lovable Lord Jesus,
who didst become a little Child for us
and willed to be born in a stable to deliver us from the darkness of sin,
to draw us to Thee and to inflame us with Thy holy love,
we adore Thee as our Creator and Redeemer,
we bow before Thee
and desire Thee to be our King and sovereign Lord,
and we offer Thee, as a tribute,
all the affections of our poor hearts.

Dear Jesus, our Lord and our God,
vouchsafe to accept this offering,
nd that it may be less unworthy of Thee,
pardon our sins,
enlighten and inflame us with that holy fire
which Thou didst bring upon earth to kindle in our hearts.

May our souls thus become an altar
on which to offer to Thee the sacrifice of our mortifications
and may we ever seek Thy greater glory here below
so that one day we may come to enjoy
Thy infinite beauty in heaven. Amen.


What a treasure trove your blog is! Every post!

Lors de mon dernier voyage à Rome, la chapelle du Santo Bambino a été un des endroits où j'ai aimé m'attarder longuement. Je conserve toujours chez moi une fiole de l'huile du Santo Bambino.


Yes, an abolute delight in this present darkness to find some comfort to light the way. Your post is likened to the Feast of the Epiphany.

Dear Father Mark, do you know how I can receive a bottle of the oil? I have a devotion to the Blessed Infant and also many health problems. God bless you, I enjoy your insights and words very much, Gwendolyn

Dear Gwendolyn,

I think that if you write to the Basilica of the Aracoeli, they will send you a little vial of the blessed oil. I don't have any on hand at the moment. The Franciscans (O.F.M.) staff the basilica. If you know any Franciscans, they may be able to help you.

Santa Maria di Araceoli Church
Scala dell’Arce
Capitolina, 12
00186 Roma, Italia

Father Mark, thanks for taking the time to explain so much...I love reading through the insights here, and it's wonderful to have you in Ireland praying for our Priests too. Our really wonderful Priests, who are facing some tough times, tough times are not unknown to us, but these are different circumstances. Thanks be to God and his providence, and to you and your brothers for giving your life of prayer to the benefit of Priests and to us lay people who need your prayers.

As I was reading through your article, I was reminded about a young child that only came to light to me last year or thereabouts that pushed me over the edge and I finally came 'home' to my Catholic faith ( couldn't call the Blessed Sacrament any less than home, my goodness, my God! ) after a long period of time that I was lost, over twenty years in fact, before I could face him - apparently this child was widely and affectionately known as 'Nelly Organ of Holy God' - she was only five when she went home, but boy did she understand the Eucharist and the presence - or at least she explained it better to a dummy like me than anybody ever did.

She saw Jesus dance, just like David danced with joy :)))

I just wanted to share her story with you, and you are not based too far, only a stones throw from where she lived (everywhere is near here ) her short and lovely life. Maybe you could google her sometime if you don't already know of her. I hope you don't mind me posting about this lovely little girl here.

God Bless.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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