There is no place in the whole world like Rome and there is no need to talk about its wonders, but the traditional astrologer should not miss the wonderful Villa Farnesina, on the shore of river Tiber. The name Farnese derive from the famous Cardinal Alessandro Farnese who bought the Villa in 1577, but it was built by Agostino Chigi, well known in Rome and in the rest of Europe as the richest man in the world, so to be called The Magnificent.
At his death, in 1520, Agostino was buried in a chapel built by Raphael where planets from their domiciles guarded him in his eternal sleep. But Agostino was not new to astrology. For one of the central halls of his villa Baldassare Peruzzi had painted for him a very peculiar astrological ceiling, where planets and constellations had been depicted as in the real sky.
The enigma of the ceiling was hidden throughout all these centuries, until 1912 when the famous art historian Aby Warburg suggested that the ceiling could be the painted birth chart of Agostino Chigi.
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Pope Clement XI (1700-1721) ordered Francesco Bianchini (1662-1729) to build a Meridian Line. Bianchini was the Secretary of the Commission for the Calendar. He chose the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli because of the stability of its roman walls and foundations and its suitable dimension. The Line built by Giandomenico Cassini (1625-1712) in 1655 in San Petronio, Bologna , was the model for Bianchini, who improved it by allowing the observation of stellar transits.
Pope Clement XI inaugurated the Great Sundial on October 6, 1702 , the annual
Feast of St. Bruno, founder of the Carthusian Order, whose statue is in the entrance of the Church. Carthusian monks ruled this Basilica for three centuries until 1884.
It is not the shadow which shows the time, but the light. At the astronomical noon a sunbeam, entering the church from a coat of arms near the ceiling, crosses a meridian line drawn on the floor. The intersection point changes according to the various periods of the year; these are indicated by inscriptions and by inlays showing the signs of the zodiac and the stars of the related constellation. The sundial allows also the calculation of Easter and the position of the Pole-star.