Along Rome there are dozens of churches, bigger, smaller, opulent or modest… but every single one has something to show.
They truly are museums, a piece of history and home of the works of art created by world famous artistas. Moreover, find your way to the Catholicism reliquis and treasures just like The Chains of St. Peter, pieces of Jesus Christ cross, the Spine Crown , papal clothing, etc.
To be honest, none of the will waste your time… on the contrary! However, it´s almost impossible to visit all of them in one trip; that´s why I am listing the best I could appreciate.
Needless to say, I´m dedicating a whole post about St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican City and museum. A million things to see! Ah! I will talk about my experience getting to the papal audience.
San Giovanni in Laterano
TOP! Archbasilica of St. John Lateran Not many people know that is the Cathedral of Rome; built by Emperor Constantine back in the IV century in honor to John the Baptist, being the first and most important one of the four Basilicas.
Until 1870 this mesmerizing palace was the Papal Residence, and many Popes are buried in it.
When you get inside you will know appreciate its splendor, monumental statues of the 12 apostles rise greeting the visitors into the main hall, in the way to the Altar. It is said that remains of the original Altar used by St. Peter still stand.
Look up! Take your time to appreciate the frescos over the ceiling… Marvelous! Tour around the Baptistry, don´t forget to check the beautiful floor mosaics.
The facade is outstanding, crowned by 7 marmol status… Jesus Christ stands with John The Baptist and John The Evangelist.
The massive bronze doors where brought from The Roman Forum. By the way, the first door on the right is only open once every 25 years.
Adress: Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano – Rome.
Transport: Bus: 16,81,85,87 and 650. Metro: Station San Giovanni. Tram: 3
Basilica Di Santa María Maggiore
TOP! The biggest Cathedral in honor to Mary, and ranks in the TOP 4 of the moest important ones in Rome. Built in middle IV century, the legend says the Virgin Mary herself appeared in front of Pope Libero giving him the construction instructions.
Inside there are well varied styles, from paleo-christians mosaics to baroque art! Despite the fact that it was refurbished by XVIII, still preserves the Bell Tower, the splendid mosaics and the marble floors from the Medieval Ages, even the Ionic columns brought from other buildings from Ancient Rome.
One of this Palace main attraction is the Chapel Sforza, last work of art by Michelangelo and subject of great studies and investigation.
Pay attention as in one side of the Altar there is Bernini´s thomb.
Just I said above, many of these Roman Cathedrals guards treasures and relics… this one keeps parts of the authentic Jesus Christ´s manger.
Adress: Piazza di Santa María Maggiore – Rome.
Transport: Bus: 16, 70, 71 and 714. Metro: Station Termini o Cavour. Tram: 14
San Paolo Fuori Le Mura
TOP! Next on the list is another one in Rome´s TOP 4, second in size after St. Peter´s one. I know it may be a bit far away, outside Rome´s original walls but it won´t be in the TOP if it wasn´t worth of it.
It is said that Paul the Apostle was buried there after being execurted.
As you may expect, its interior is beyond words… massive alabaster columns and striking mosaics. Don´t skip the Altar!
On the left nave there are large papal portraits, every single one! They say the when all the empty portrait-spots are taken, leaving no room for the next Pope, the Catholic Church will change forever.
Adress: Piazzale San Paolo – Rome.
Transport: Bus: 23 and 271. Metro: Station Basílica di San Paolo.
Basílica di Santa María in Trastevere
Built on the remains of an ancient paleo-christian church, the first official one in Rome around 340AC… But it wasn’t until the VI century that the church was dedicated to Mary. It was rebuilt in XII using marble from Caracalla and adding the beautiful Bell Tower.
Legend says that in 38BC, in the place where know stands this Basilica, a stream of oil sprouted from the floor; this was understood as the announcement Jesus Christ return. This spot is marked inside the Presbytery.
Once inside, you will find fine mosaics worked by Cavallini in the XIII century, which tell us stories about Virgin Mary´s life.
A place not so mentioned by the tour guides is Avila Chape, a unique site inside the Basilic where an unbelievable Dome with 4 angels, with an incredible light effect brought by the contrast between the darkness and natural light.
Something curious that you shall find by walking through the Basilica, exactly in the right Nave, is elements of torture just like chains and iron weights used against Martyrs.
Don´t skip the Fountain placed in the exterior, located in the middle of the square… said to be the first one in Rome. In some of its many restorations, Bernini contributed with his work.
Adress: Piazza Santa María in Trastevere – Rome.
Transport: bus: 23, 280 and 780.
Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei martiri
Don´t let the depressive exterior foul you, there´s a great contrast with its majestic interior. Moreover, this is the only one with Renaissance architecture, designed by Michelangelo after following the orders from Pope Pio IV.
The ground where the Basilica rises was place of Dioclecian´s Baths, one of the many Roman Empire demonstration of power; however, after Godos´s attempt to conquer Rome, they cut the water supply and the Baths were abandoned, becoming refuge for thieves and prostitutes.
Years later the land was bought by a French Cardenal, who transformed the area in a beautiful Vila surrounded by gardes. After that, it became what it looks like nowadays.
On its inside you will find massive frescos and impressive marble columns of different colors. The most striking of this Basilica, in my opinion, is the meridian line drawn in the floor by Francesco Biachini which indicates midday, solstice, equinox and also works as a calendar!
Adress: Piazza della Repubblica – Rome.
Transport: bus: 36, 60, 61, 62, 84, 90, 116, 170, 492 and 910.
Basílica di San Pietro in Vincoli
This Basilica was built in the V century, specially to treasure one of the many Catholicism relics that you will find on your trip: the chains of St. Peter when he was imprisioned in Jerusalem.
The difference with the other Basilicas may be shocking as this one is modest, simple, with not many decorations. Under the Altar you will find the reliquary with the Chains.
Another attraction is the spectacular Moises statue by Michelangelo, which is part of the thomb of Pope Julius II. This statue is considered by the artist its more realistic work.
There are some works of art the Central Nave ceiling, frescos by Battista Parodi, Cardenal Agucchi monument by Domenichino, among others.
Adress: Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli – Rome.
Transport: bus: 75, 84 and 117. Metro: Station Cavour, line B.
Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Located in the Capitoline hill, next to Vittorio Emanuelle II monument, you will find this VI century Basilica; completely rebuilt in XIII. This is one of the most precious for the Roman people, chosen for several sacred events.
Its main attraction is the wooden figure of Jesus Christ as a child, said to be miraculous. However, the original one was stolen years ago and a replica was placed.
Adress: Piazza Campidoglio, 55. Rome.
Transport: Walk from the Piazza Venezia.
Santa Maria della Vittoria
This modest church built in the XVII century to conmemórate the victory of Emperor Ferdinand II in the battle of the White Mountain. It wasn´t popular for the tourists until its appearance in the book “Angles and Demos” by Dan Brown.
The exterior is simple and poor and if you don´t know exactly where you are going, you may miss it. On the other hand, the interior is pretty enough, lighted by candles giving an special and peaceful effect. The main attraction is the Cornaron Chapel with the famous Bernini sculpture “Ecstasy of Saint Teresa”.
Adress: Via 20 Settembre, 17. Rome.
Transport: bus: 60, 61, 62, 84, 492 y 910.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
This church was built on Minerva´s Temple ashes, that´s where the name comes from. Remainings of an ancient Temple dedicated to epypcian Isis and even an obelisk were found.
It is considered the only gothic church in Rome, modest of the outside but charming on the inside with the majestic ceiling painted in an intense blue, full of frescos.
A detail that only a few knows is that this place shelters a sculpture of Jesus Christ by Michelangelo. Moreover, there are several Thombs, for example the Renaissance painter Fra Angelico, Pope Paul IV and some members of the Medici dynasty.
Adress: Piazza della Minerva 42. Rome.
Santa Maria del Popolo
This Little church is located next to the old Northern Gate, outstanding thanks to the many Renaissance Works of art and its unusual origin: It is said that Neron Ghost haunted the area for many years, in its thomb a walnut tree grew up… but thought to be bewitched and surrounded
by craws. To put an end to this history, Pope Pascual II send workers to cut the tree and built a Roman Chapel over it.
Rebuilt and enlarged many times since its building, but in 1513 Caravaggio, Bernini and Rafael decorated the walls and ceiling.
The interior is pretty peculiar, low ceilings and ghoulish decorations. Don´t forget to visit Cerasi Chapel and appreciate those Caravaggio canvases, as well as Chaepl Chigi, built and decorated by Rafael.
Adress: Piazza del Popolo – Rome.
Transport: bus: 95, 117, 119, 490, 495 and 926. Metro: Station: Flaminio, líne A.
Pantheon di Agrippa
This iconic place was built in 27BC by Marco Agrippa, son in law of Emperor August. However, what you are seeing today is a reconstruction, as a wildfire brought the original pantheon to the ashes.
In the VII century was donated to Pope Boniface IV, who transformed it into a church, that´s the reason of the remarkable maintenance of the whole place. The diameter of the dome is the same as the height, even bigger than the Vatican one.
You will find the thomb of Rafael and many Italian kings. Don´t forget to take a look at the works of art! Marvelous!
In my opinión, one of the most magical places of Rome… not only because of the Pantheon, but also the pretty Piazza dell Rotonda with its restaurants and bars, the fountain. During the night offers a special lighting, giving the idea of being on the medieval ages.
Adress: Piazza della Rotonda – Rome.
Transport: Metro: Station: Barberini, líne A.
Santa Maria in Cosmedin
This medieval church was built in the VII century over the Temple of Hercules, in the Forum Boarium, famous for the Bocca della Verita portico. Avoid this in peak hours and it will be hoarded by tourists!
The inside is pretty modest, but still keeps some of the mosaics, the Bishop Throne and crystal reliquary holding Saint Valentine skull. Under the altar there´s a Crypt dated from the VIII century to store relics that Pope Adrian I found in the Roman catacombs.
Adress: Piazza della Bocca della Verità 18. Rome.
Transport: Bus: 23, 44, 81, 95, 160, 280, 628, 715 and 716.
Santa Maria della Concezione
This special church was built between 1626 – 1631 by order of Pope Urban VIII, sheltering the Crypts of the Capuchin Monks, avoid this place if you are easily impressionable and scared.
By orders of Cardenal Barberini, the Monks where brought from the cementry to the Crypt and putting them in an artistic way, different positions of high symbolism. There are six Chapels, decorated with bones of more than 4.000 Capuchin brothers, some of them are full skeletons wearing the Monks habits.
Adress: Calle Vittorio Véneto, 27. Rome.
Transport: Bus: 52, 53, 61, 62, 63, 80, 95, 116, 119 and 175. Metro: Station: Barberini, líne A.
Sant’Agnese in Agone
Located in the beautiful Piazza Navona this baroque church dates from 1652, built by Rainaldi and Borromini. In this place took place the Saint Ines martyrization, that´s why there are several relics of this Saint in the interior.
The main sculpture and the Dome will definitely take your breath away! By the way, in one of the lateral Chapels there´s the actual skull of Saint Agnese.
Adress: Piazza Navona – Rome.
Transport: Bus: 30, 70, 81, 87, 130F, 492, 628, N6, N7.
Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
This Basilic is one of the main 7 in Rome that I mentioned before and was built by the Emperor Constantine in the old area of the Hellen´s Palace from Constantinople, her mother. The façade is one of the biggest baroque art works, by Borromini. In 1144 there were some upgrades, like the addition of the Bell Tower.
This Basilica is well-known for treasuring the relics of Jesus Christ crucifixion, many of them were brought by Saint Hellen from Jerusalem: INRI panel from the cross, two throns of the Crown, part of nails, a small piece of wood from the True Cross and the Holy Sponge.
There are several Chapels, but the Saint Helena one outstands as its floor is covered with sand brought from Jerusalem. Under the altar we can see relics from Saint Cesaire and Saint Anastasio.
Adress: Piazza di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme 12. Rome.
Transport: Bus: 571, 649, N10. Metro: Station: San Giovanni, Line A.