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Rome's Famous Churches

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 Best Places To Visit In Rome - Churches 2

More of Rome's Churches

The stunning, Gothic Interior of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva 

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is a beautiful church constructed in the Gothic style and that  distinction makes it one of the most unique  churches in Rome.

It is believed that the original church on this site was built over a shrine to the goddess Minerva.  The current church  evolved in spurts of activity between the 13th and 15th centuries, although it has been dramatically altered since that time.

The exterior of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is bland and unimaginative, which is why many people walk by without a second look. However, there is more here than meets the eye. The interior is stunning and includes works by Bernini, Michelangelo, and others. The remains of St. Catherine of Siena, Fra Angelico and several popes are buried within the church.

Bernini's obelisk outside of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is a delight.

The Dominican Convent attached to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is where Galileo was tried for his then heresy that the earth revolved around the sun.  At other times, the convent was visited by St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Dominic and other noted saints.

The church is close to the Pantheon and as noted above, its exterior is relatively nondescript.  However,  Bernini  decided to grace the location of the church with a small but interesting statue of an elephant carrying an obelisk.  Eye the elephant and then treat yourself to a quick tour of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.  You will be glad you did.

Saint Maria Sopra Minerva is located at Piazza della Minerva.

Santa Maria ad Martyres 

The altar of Santa Maria ad Martyres in the PanteonThe Pantheon is one of Rome's oldest buildings and many believe that it has remained intact because it was converted to a church in the early 7th century, several hundred years after it had been abandoned by the Empire.  The church, which was dedicated to Mary, Mother of God, and all martyrs, is not famous as a church, but for the amazing building that forms its setting. 

Unfortunately, while its adoption as a working church is reputed to have helped preserve the building, various popes harvested materials from the Pantheon for other purposes.   For example. the much of the interior and exterior brass plating was removed from the Pantheon to mold cannons for Castle Sant'Angelo and for use in Bernini's Baldachchino in St. Peter's Basilica. 

The Pantheon and its church are used in the plot to the popular novel and movie Angels &Demons, so expect the crowds to be larger than usual.

 

Basilica di San Clemente 

The interior of the Basilica di San Clemente is incredibly beautiful

The Basilica di San Clemente has one of the most beautiful interiors of any church in the Eternal City.  The apse consists of a half-dome richly appointed with colorful mosaics that are considered among the finest created during the Middle Ages.  The altar is capped with a temple-like top that marks the crypt of Pope Saint Clemente (one of the first popes).

The original church, which was destroyed by the Normans when they sacked Rome in the 11th century, dates from the 4th century.  Interestingly, the earlier church  incorporated the ruins of a  Roman temple 

The current church  was constructed in the 12th century with a glorious attention to detail.  The intricate, carved ceiling is a masterpiece, as are the mosaics and unique floor tiling leading to the altar.   If you are in the neighborhood, don't pass up a chance to see this gem.

The Basilica di San Clemente is located in the Piazza San Clemente

San Ambrogio e Carlo

The rich interior of San Ambrogio and Carlo is unexpected, but delightful

Built to celebrate two  Milanese saints (Ambrose and Charles Borromeo), this 17th century church is compact and visually pleasing.  The colorful faux-marble support columns skinned with faux-marble pilasters and the abundance of bright frescos help make this church a delight to visit.  The  painting of Saints Ambrose and Charles behind the main altar is also quite impressive. 

The windowed drum supporting the dome, adds a lightness to the interior and the glow radiating from the windowed barrel vault adds yet another dimension that helps make this modestly-sized church a favorite of many visitors to Rome.  The church is also important to those who regard Saint Charles Borromeo as their patron saint, since his heart  is preserved in a reliquary near the sanctuary.

Saint Ambrogio  and Charles is located along Via Del Corso.

Trinita dei Monti The relatively plain interior of Trinita dei Monti

The Trinita dei Monti is the church at the top of the Spanish Steps in RomeTrinita dei Monti is the inviting church at the top of the Spanish Steps next to the Piazza di Spagna.  Although the church is not as popular or as famous as its neighboring attractions, it does compliment their setting.

The Trinita was built by the French King Louis XII and consecrated late in the 16th century.  During Napoleon's occupation of Rome, during the first decade of the 19th century, the church was damaged.  In addition, its art was removed (looted) although returned after repairs had been made to the church. To be honest, the outside and the location of the Trinita are what makes it a favorite, but we thought you might like to know a little about its history and see a photograph of its interior.

The Trinita dei Monti is located on the Piazza Trinita dei Monti above the Spanish Steps (LINK)

Santa Sabina

Santa Sabina may exhibit the prototypical plan for early Christian churches in RomeThe original church at this location dates from the early 5th century, although it was renovated and expanded in the late 8th century.  In the 17th century the church was once again renovated, but was not restored to some of its original glory until another renovation in the 20th century.  The simple, airy, almost empty look of this church is thought to reflect its original design.  The large windows in the drum and the numerous windows above the nave serve to provide an airy, peaceful feeling that merges with the solemnity of the  columns edging the nave. 

The church has a number of interesting, modest frescos, although its mosaics appear to have disappeared during one of the many renovations.  The cypress door to the church may date from the original construction.  It consists of a number of panes (several are missing) that depict scenes and stories from the Bible. 

Santa Sabina is located on Via Santa Sabina near the Piazza Pietro d'Illiria.

 

Santa Maria in Aracoeli

Santa Maria in Aracoeli has many interior delights for such a plain faced churchSanta Marie in Aracoeli, up the 124-step stairway to the left of the Cordonatta on Capitoline Hill, is the official church of the Italian Senate. It is thought that the location occupied by the church sits atop earlier temples or other types of monuments. The present church, which appears to date from the mid 13th century, was built over or incorporated parts of an earlier church that is thought to date from the 6th century.

The interior of Santa Maria in Aracoeli  is divided into three modest naves and  has many interesting features created by famous artists of the time.  However, we think your attention will be attracted by the church's columns, which were taken from other buildings in the Forums and used here.

The painted and gilded ceiling  was offered as a tribute to the Blessed Virgin in the  16th century to  commemorate  the crucial  Battle of Lepanto (1571), when a coalition of Christian fleets defeated the Ottoman Turk navy off the shores of western Greece, preventing the Ottomans from invading Rome and southern Europe.

The church hosts one of Rome's most popular Christmas celebrations, when on Christmas Eve its stairway is illuminated with candles in preparation for a midnight celebration where a wooden statue of the infant Jesus (Santo Bambino) is unveiled and introduced to the crowd.

Santa Maria in Aracoeli is located on Capitoline Hill near the Piazza Campidoglio.

Santa Maria degli Angeli  

Built inside the Baths  of Diocletian in the 16th century, Santa Maria degli Angeli was designed by Michelangelo who incorporated many structural aspects of the baths into his architectural plan.   The exterior has been redesigned over the centuries, although some sections still include the original walls from the Baths of Diocletian, while the interior, with some modifications, still reflects Michelangelo's original design.  The church was built to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Christian slaves who were died constructing the Baths of Diocletian (constructing the Baths was their punishment for professing Christianity).

       Santa Maria degli Angleli was designed by Michelangelo and was once part of the Baths of Diocletian

The church is known for pleasant interior, as well as its Meridian line, a long, brass strip embedded in the floor, which is illuminated by the sun shining through a small portal in the ceiling.  The Meridian was created to help track the seasons and predict the dates of holy days.

Santa Maria degli Angeli is located on the Piazza della Repubblica.

Sant Andrea al Quirinale

A beautiful church that is regarded as a Baroque masterpiece, Sant'Andrea is considered one of Bernini's finest works. The architecture of the Church and its interior decorations combine to create a powerful statement. The construction dates from the 17th century.

Sant Andrea is located on Via del Quirinale, near the Palazzo Quirinale.

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Rome's Churches

This Page
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Santa Maria ad Martyres
San Clemente
San Ambrogio e Carlo
Trinita dei Monti
Santa Sabina
Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Santa Maria degli Angeli
Sant Andrea al Quirinale

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St. Peter's
St. John Lateran
Santa Maria Maggiore
St. Paul Outside the Walls
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Santa Maria del Popolo

 

 

 

 

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The churches we cover  are "working" churches and hold services daily. Try to plan your visit when you will not inconvenience those attending mass.

In addition, immodest dress is not appropriate and may deny you entry to these churches and to the Vatican.

Bare shoulders, bare legs above the knee and showing too much skin are forbidden in most churches, so shorts and tank tops are usually out of the question.  Try something with sleeves, wear pants (jeans) or a skirt or dress that falls below the knees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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