Top Churches in Rome
St. Peter's Basilica
Every year, millions of pilgrims flock to the world's most important Catholic church, as art lovers marvel at Michelangelo's cupola, Bernini's papal altar, and the vast nave. The burial site of its namesake, St. Peter's took such Italian masterminds as Raphael and Bramante more than a century to complete.
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Even locals can't help being mesmerized by the splendors of this church's piazza, chief among them being the incandescent Byzantine mosaics on the basilica's facade and the elegant octagonal fountain. Inside, the vast nave stupefies with its gigantic Roman columns and glittering golden mosaics.
Studying the dome up high in this fantastically bejeweled 1626 Jesuit church, you may think your eyes are playing tricks on you. But it's not your eyes! That extraordinarily accurate replica of a Baroque dome was painted in its place after plans for the cupola fell through.
Sant'Agnese in Agone
Prominently positioned in Piazza Navona, this church has some of Rome's most quintessential Baroque architecture. Designed by Borromini (1652), a fervent rival of Bernini's, the church's facade is a stunning symphony of voluminous concave spaces and bell towers.
Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Moody, medieval, and magnificent, this 12th-century Romanesque church draws throngs to its portico where the stone Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth) sits in judgment—dare you test the legend that its stone jaws clamp shut on the hands of the untruthful?
Uncover the layers of Medieval Rome here at this half-basilica, half archaeological site. Famed for its mosaics, this 12th-century church actually sits on top of another church that dates back to the 4th century and a 2nd-century BC temple to the pagan god, Mithras.
Santa Maria del Popolo
Few other churches in Rome reflect the richness of Renaissance art as does Santa Maria del Popolo, thanks to its nave enlarged by Bramante and the Chigi Chapel, a Raphael masterwork. But equally striking are Baroque treasures like Caravaggio's Cerasi Chapel and Bernini's mosaic-covered dome.
Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Set on a piazza graced by Bernini's famed elephant obelisk, this Gothic-style church—best known for Michelangelo's Risen Christ and famed frescoes by Filippino Lippi—gives off a heavenly aura, thanks to arched blue ceilings ashimmer with gold stars.
Santa Maria in Aracoeli
On the Capitoline Hill and atop a towering, 137-step stairway (designed in 1348 to celebrate the passing of the Black Death and the very spot where Gibbon was inspired to write his Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire), this Romanesque-Gothic landmark was begun in the 6th century and is home to the famed Santo Bambino, a carved-wood Baby Jesus figure.
San Giovanni in Laterano
It's hard to miss the 15 gargantuan marble statues (including Christ and the 12 Apostles) that tower over the facade of Rome's official cathedral and first church of the popes. The Baroque interior was accomplished by Borromini, but many pilgrims head first to the legendary Scala Santa (Holy Steps).
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