St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City is one of the world’s most famous churches, and one of the most frequently visited by visitors to Rome. However, when you visit Rome, we’d encourage you to visit some other churches in addition to the Basilica. There are over 4,000 in the city – and they are all stunning in their own way. Here are five churches we’d recommend you see in Rome – but no matter what church you go to in Rome, you are likely to be bowled over by their beauty.
San Giovanni in Laterano
You’d be forgiven for thinking that St. Peter’s Basilica is the official cathedral of Rome, but it is not. It’s this church – San Giovanni in Laterno. It is the seat of the bishop of Rome – or in other words, the Pope.
It was one of the first Catholic Churches in Rome, since it dates back to the 4th Century AD, and is therefore one of the oldest surviving Christian structures in the city. It has been restored over the years, for various reasons, so the interior dates more from the 16th Century. It is beautifully decorated on the inside – it seems like every inch of space has been made use of. The gothic tabernacle is of specific note – it is said to hold the heads of Saint Paul and Saint Peter.
Piazza di Porta San Giovanni, Rome.
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Similarly, Santa Maria in Trastevere also dates back to the 4th Century, and is one of the oldest churches in Rome. It was certainly the first to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Pope Innocent II, who was from Trastevere, refurbished it in the 12th Century, and this is where it got its name. Inside, it is full of beautiful Byzantine mosaics, as well as pillars that were once taken from ancient roman structures – as was the trend back then. The beautiful octagonal fountain outside is a perfect spot to marvel at the exterior.
Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome
This church did not start out as a Catholic Church. It started life as a temple, built by Emperor Hadrian in 118AD. It became a Catholic Church in the 7th Century, and it was this new purpose that kept it from falling into disrepair or its structure being pillaged for use elsewhere. As a result it is the best kept building of the Roman Empire and as such is historically precious. It is stunning inside – a feeling that starts from its two huge bronze doors. The dome is still the largest unreinforced dome – an engineering and artistic triumph. It is also the burial place of Raphael, and two Italian Kings.
Pantheon, Piazza della Rotonda, Rome.
The Ancient #Pantheon of Rome – the best-kept structure from the days of the Roman Empire.
The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
If you happen to be in Rome on the 5th of August, then do try to see the Miracle of the Snows celebration at this church. The church is built on the spot that snow fell in the middle of summer in 358AD. It was predicted by the Virgin Mary, who had made this known to the Pope. To commemorate this, thousands of white petals are dropped from the ceiling of the church on this day every year. On any other day, the church is just as impressive with its beautiful stained glass windows, stunning statues, and golden ceilings – gold that Columbus is said to have taken back from the New World.
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 42, Rome.
- Santa Maria del Popolo
Built in the late 11th Century, this church is made up of a series of chapels, and it is packed with stunning Renaissance art by Raphael, Bernini and Caravaggio. The original church was apparently built in the 2nd Century to exorcise the ghost of Emperor Nero who was said to be haunting the site. The church has a Renaissance façade, dome and campanile – and Martin Luther stayed here during a visit to Rome in the 16th Century.
Piazza del Popolo, Rome
Explore Rome with Gray Line I Love Rome.
There is so much history, art and architecture to experience in Rome. If you’re inspired to come and see for yourself the beauty of Rome, then hop over to the Gray Line I love Rome website for full details on how we can help you explore our city, and share it’s beauty with you.
I’d specifically recommend our Hop On Hop Off bus tours – which will take you all around our city’s sights, including many of our most famous and most beautiful churches. Find our more at: graylinerome.com
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