All roads lead to Rome. They are lined with some of the world’s most beautiful churches. You can easily lose sight with all of this pomp and splendour. ZAINOO presents the 10 most beautiful churches of the Eternal City to you and shows you the quickest way to Rome’s breath-taking sacred buildings.
St. Peter’s Basilica
The city’s most famous church is also the heart of Vatican City. Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano or the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, as it is also known, is Rome’s largest Papal major basilica. It was built on the site where, according to popular belief, St. Peter’s Tomb is located. Instead of rushing through this engineering marvel, you should take your time and unhurriedly explore the dome, its chapels and museums. You’ll find several works of Italy’s most famous artists.
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Rome’s probably oldest Marian church is located in the centre of the Trastevere district. First structures date back to the 4th century. The altar is located where, according to legend, oil flowed from a spring in 38 BC. Jewish inhabitants thought this to be a sign of the arrival of the Messiah. Checking into this multiplicatively renovated and extended basilica, you’ll find astonishing mosaics. Some of them depict the life of St. Mary.
Sant’Agnese in Agone
According to legend, St. Agnes was stripped naked and presented to the crowd on Piazza Navone when, all of a sudden, she grew hair covering her body. Today, the square is the site of the magnificent baroque church Sant’Agnese in Agnose built by Girolamo and Carlo Rainaldi and Francesco Borromini. The impressive front is lined with two sturdy bell towers and a crowned cupola.
The Pantheon is one of very few religious buildings in Rome with no Catholic background whatsoever. Once devoted to the pagan gods of the city, it is probably Rome’s best-preserved antiquity building. Its cupola had been the largest in the entire world for more than 1,700 years. Many a famous person is buried in the Pantheon including two kings and the world-renowned Renaissance painter Raphael.
Santa Maria Maggiore
The Basilica of St. Mary Major is one of the four Papal major basilicas and one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome. It is the largest Catholic Marian church of the city and widely regarded as the Catholic crown jewel. You will easily lose yourself in the wide, pillar-lined interior between colourful stained glass windows and fascinating relics. Visit the basilica on August 5th when thousands of white petals are dropped from the ceiling!
Saint Clement of Rome (or Pope Clement I) is considered to be the fourth Bishop of Rome. A 12th century basilica in close proximity to the Coliseum was dedicated to him. The church was built on top of four building ruins, one of which once was a Christian house that is believed to have succumbed to Nero’s Great Fire of Rome. Today, the fresco-heavy building is home to the Irish Dominicans.
Santa Maria sopra Minerva
This basilica is Rome’s only original Gothic church. Its name derives from the erroneous presumption that it had been built on the ruins of a former Roman temple dedicated to the Greco-Roman goddess Minerva (“sopra”, Eng. “atop”). However, it has since been found out that the temple had been dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis. Stepping inside the interior, you will be enthralled by the play of colours and shadow revealing neo-Gothic frescos and Michelangelo’s “Cristo della Minerva” statue.
Archbasilica of St. John Lateran
The official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope has a very fascinating, telling name that roughly translates to “Papal Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran”. San Giovanni in Laterano was probably Rome’s first Catholic church. Looking fairly non-descript from the outside, you mustn’t miss the elaborately adorned interior with its many mosaics and paintings. Even the candlesticks bear images of the prophets.
Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls
San Paolo fuori le Muro, as it is known in Italian, is one of Rome’s four Papal major basilicas. Relive some history visiting this fascinating church: Emperor Constantine founded a chapel on this spot in the 4th century where, according to legend, St. Paul was beheaded. Today’s building is home of 266 portrait medals depicting every Pope in history from St Peter to Francis.
Santa Maria del Popolo
A Renaissance jewel stands near Porta del Popolo. This three-nave church with an additional monastery was built in 1099 to battle superstition. The public believed to see Nero’s ghosts in the evil looking crows populating a tree at Rome’s northern gate. After cutting down this tree, the basilica was built. It now houses important works of Raphael, Caravaggio and Pinturicchio.
Would you like to learn more about Rome, its fascinating history and the imposing sacral buildings? ZAINOO has all the information, the best tips and the most beautiful city tours for you!