St. Peter’s Basilica – Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
Attracting 7 million visitors per year to its holy Catholic site, Saint Peter’s Basilica stands as one of the most sacred buildings in the world, teeming with masterpieces from the Renaissance that continue to retain their reputation. Although you suspect flamboyance, the beauty of the basilica is undeniable. From the angels and gold, to the columns, statues and frescoes, all is monumental. Find here the works of Bernini, Brunelleschi, Raphael, the architect of the dome, Michelangelo, and many more.
Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, Latium, 00185
Resting on the Esquiline Hill, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is arguably the best preserved Roman church solely consecrated to the Madonna. The basilica was built by a Roman patrician named Giovanni who built the church to the Virgin Mary after she appeared in a dream in August 352 A.D. to show where he and his wife should build the church. When Pope Liberius also had this dream, they all discovered the Esquiline Hill covered in snow in the middle of August the next day, which inspired the church to also be called „Our Lady of the Snow.“ Visit the basilica on August 5 to see the annual release of white petals onto the altar in remembrance of the snow miracle.
Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano – Piazza di Porta San Giovanni, Rome, Latium, 00185
The Papal Archbasilica of St. John in Lateran, or St. John Lateran Archbasilica, stands as the official cathedral church of Rome and hosts the ecclesiastical seat, cathedra, of the Pope. Consecrated in 324 A.D., the basilica stands as the oldest of the four main basilicas in Rome and overall as the oldest church in the West. Although it is situated outside of the Vatican City, it still maintains extraterritorial status from Italy as Holy See property. Despite the fires and natural disasters that ravaged the church over the centuries, the columns, frescoes, mosaics and sculptures bring the sanctuary to life. Pilgrims arrive to see the Baptistery built in 315 A.D. by Emperor Constantine and Giotto’s gothic column fresco that is believed to have the heads of St. Peter and Paul.
Santa Maria in Trastevere – Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome, Latium, 00153
Rumored to be built around 350 A.D, the Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches standing in Rome today and the first church consecrated to the Virgin Mary. The church was officially completed in 1143 under Pope Julius I and attracts visitors due to the 13th century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini on the “Life of the Virgin” (1291). Inside you will find 22 granite columns of Corinthian and Ionic capitals dividing the church aisles from the Baths of Caracalla, Domenichino’s „Assumption of the Virgin“ (1617) and more mosaics on the façade.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere – Piazza Santa Cecilia in Trastevere 22, Rome, Latium, 00153
A church from the 5th century, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is traditionally known to have been built over the house of the Roman saint Cecilia, who was martyred under Marcus Aurelius Severus Alexander (222-235 A.D.). Ferdinando Fuga created the church’s current façade surrounding a courtyard adorned with the coast of arms and a dedication to Francesco Cardinal Acquaviva d’Aragona who funded the façade. Artworks from the 13th century remain such as the Final Judgment (1289-93) mural by Pietro Cavallini and the ciborium by Arnolfo di Cambio. The most famous sculpture inside is the Martyrdom of Saint Cecilia by Stefano Maderno depicting how Moderno claims to have exactly seen the saint’s body when the tomb was opened in 1599.
Santa Maria della Vittoria – Via 20 Settembre, 17, 00187, Roma
Santa Maria della Vittoria is a Baroque-style Roman Catholic titular church completed in 1620 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Most recognised for Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s work Esctasy of Saint Teresa in the Corner Chapel, the church is the only of its kind to be built by an early Baroque architect, Carlo Maderno. Find the beautiful frescoes of The Virgin Mary Triumphing over Heresy and the Fall of the Rebel Angels by Cerrini, and do not forget to gaze at the Ecstasy of St. Teresa statue to the left of the altar in the Cornaro Chapel, depicting Saint Teresa of Avila when she had a seraph pierce her heart with a golden arrow and felt both pain and joy.
Other churches to visit are:
- Basilica Papale San Paolo fuori le Mura – Piazzale San Paolo, 1, 00146, Roma
- Basilica di Santa Maria in Aracoeli – Scala dell’Arcicapitolina, 12, 00186, Roma
- Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli – Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli, 4/a, 00184, Roma
- Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri – Piazza della Repubblica, 00185, Roma
- Chiesa del Gesù – Via degli Astalli, 16, 00186, Roma