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mdtravel May 9th, 2008 05:45 AM

Churches of Rome Master Thread
Hello all. I have been to Rome five times in six years and am often asked what it is that keeps us going back. My answer, to someone who has never been, likely sounds like hot air: The seemingly endless sites that you can uncover just by walking around.

One of our favorite things to do is to stop in to every Catholic church possible while we are walking around. A lot of times you stumble on things that do not appear in any guidebook. I have looked for a book containing an exhaustive list of churches in Rome to no avail; most have about 25 to 50 churches and they are all the big ones that we all know about.

What I thought I would (try) to do is start a thread where those who are interested could post information on their favorite finds, known to all or hidden gems. My motives are to try to provide information, but also selfish in that I am planning on going back to Rome once again in November.

So if you have a favorite church please post information about it here. If you can, try to include some basic information; suggested information might be:
1. The full name of the church
2. The area / part of Rome it is in
3. The exact and accurate address (so we can find it on maps)
4. Any accurate open hours that you may know of
5. What makes it unique: art work, famous artists, the layout, the age, design
6. Anything else you may find interesting or think others may find interesting

I'm going to give it a try on the next post.

mdtravel May 9th, 2008 06:07 AM

Church name: Basilica SS. Giovanni e Paolo, aka Santi Giovanni e Paolo, aka Santi Giovanni e Paolo al Celio, aka SS Giovanni e Paolo.

Part of Rome: Celian Hill

Address: Piazza dei Santi Giovanni e Paulo

Metro stops: Colosseo or Circus Maximus

I found out about this church when I was looking for archeological sites that are outside the mainstream. To get to the church (going from memory) walk by the Colloseum through the Arch, down the large boulevard with the entrance to Palatine on your left. When you get to the intersection with Circus Maximus diagonal to you, turn left and walk up the hill. You will see a church from the street up the hill a bit, but this is not the one.

You walk up a small street with a pretty decent slope. The street is called Clivus Scauri and has not changed names since Roman times. You walk under several centuries old arches as you make your way up to the piazza in front of the church.

With the side of the church on your left, you can go inside a small room to buy a ticket to the excavations under the church. The excavations are known as the Case Romane and date to the 1st to 4th century. They are interesting just to walk through. If memory serves, the cost to get in is 7 euro. No photos or video...strictly enforced by people roaming around. The ruins were discovered in the 19th century and are run today by teh Commune di Roma.

The church is open during what is pretty much standard hours for churches in Rome: 8:30 to noon, 3:30 to 6:30 with pretty much the same hours on Sunday.

What struck me about this church was not really the archelogical sites, but the inside of the church itself. It is FILLED with crystal chandaliers (sp?). They run down both sides of the main aisle and the two side aisles, and also are over the entire altar. It is a very unusual site to see in a Catholic church.

When I was there they were not turned on and I could not find the switch to turn them on. I went there twice.

the first time was during their open hours and there was one other couple there looking around. It was difficult to get good pictures of the chandaliers because it was so dark, but I tried just the same.

The second time I went was when they were closed. A wedding had just taken place apparently as there was an older man in the square sweeping up rice with an old straw broom. I went to the door, pulled and it was locked.

The old man pointed to the right of the main door to what looked like a garage door leading into a storage area. I walked in there, thinkig that was what he was telling me to do, and found a covered area under one of the arches of the structure. In this area, there was some equipment but also a fenced off area that looked down into what I assume to be Roman ruins. Nothing much really...pretty much the same sort of thing you would see in the Imperial Forums area but still something that I doubt most people see.

When I came back out of this area he again pointed to the right and I saw what he was really pointing at: a small door to the right of the main entrance in the portico that was ajar. I approached, looked back at him, he nodded and I went in. I had the church to myself, except for the two cats that were there. The old man came in after a few minutes and took the cats to eat lunch.

I wandered around to the various altars and chapels, snapping pictures and just enjoying having the place to myself. I still could not figure out how to turn the lights on but the experience was pretty cool and unique just the same.

I know this church is not completely unknown, but it is a great example of the hidden gems that do not make it to a guide book and never appears on the 'must do' lists that we compile here.

End of church #1.

Zerlina May 9th, 2008 08:14 AM

I'm not adding a church - no time - but there are crystal chandeliers in Santa Maria in Aracoeli as well.

Cimbrone May 9th, 2008 08:21 AM

My favorite church in Rome is Santa Maria della Vittoria, famous for it's, many say erotic, Ecstacy of Saint Teresa by Bernini. But its ceiling with its lovely fresco of happy cherubs sending Satan to hell while the Virgin looks on is also captivating.

Via 20 Settembre

Near the Piazza Republica

6:30-noon 4:30-6:30 Mon-Sun

MilenaM May 9th, 2008 10:55 AM

San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane on the Quirinal Hill, via del Quirinale 23

Take the Metro A to Piazza Barberini, walk on via delle Quattro Fontane and stop to admire the 4 fountains at the crossing with via del Quirinale.

Opening hours are 10-13/15-18 M-F, 10-13 Sat, 12-13 Sun (mass @11)

The first independent commission and the one he cared most about, of Francesco Borromini, the travertine Baroque facade is one of the most beautiful in Rome. The space being small Borromini could not design a Greek or Latin Cross floor plan but created the illusion of space by combining interlocking ovals and circles to give an ample oval floor plan. The church was started in 1634 and was left unfinished when Borromini committed suicide in 1667. The beautiful oval coffered dome was finished afterwards. Also see the cloister with its portico and loggia.
Considering that Borromini did not charge a 'coin' for the work and that his suicide did not allow his body to be buried in the crypt, this seems to be one of the few places where one feels his presence. A work of love, charity and ultimately death.

If you go, continue on via del Quirinale to see GianLorenzo Bernini's Sant' Andrea al Quirinale Church. The rivalry between the two is legendary and both churches having the unusual oval plans it makes for a nice comparison.

LAwoman May 9th, 2008 11:18 AM

I love the sound of the bells chiming in Rome.

Here's another thread on this subject;tid=34500653

sjj May 9th, 2008 11:50 AM

My wife and I liked a number of churches in the center of Rome. The best of them are S. Maria del Popolo, for the Caravaggio paintings, S. Luigi, very richly designed, also with Caravaggio art, S. Augistino, near S. Luigi and also with stuff by Caravaggio, S. Ivo, for calm, renaissance look, Gesu, an ornate Jesuit church, and S. Ignazio, also Jesuit, with a great ceiling with an amazing 3-D look. This was our third trip to Rome, and we haven't scratched the surface.

schmave717 May 9th, 2008 12:36 PM

We just came back from a week in Italy but only a day in Rome.

My wife likes St. Peter in Vincoli (St. Peter in chains) just up the hill from the Coloseum (Metro stop Coloseo or, better, I think, Cavour.)

It's where the Michaelangelo Moses is, but my wife is more fascinated by the chains that held St. Peter. Talk about a relic!

My favorite church is the place people forget is a church: the Pantheon. It's not religious but still one of the world's great buildings. Gotta love the engineering and the hole in the roof.

Sorry for not being more original.

mdtravel May 9th, 2008 12:47 PM

No need to apologize for originality...where do you start when there are so many amazing churches!

I hope others keep getting added; I love learning about these places.

Underhill May 9th, 2008 01:22 PM

Our find was San Stefano Rotundo--round, as the name indicates--and decorated with huge frescoes of the martyrdoms of some 30 saints.

ParadiseLost May 9th, 2008 01:53 PM

Great topic!

"The old man pointed to the right of the main door...In this area, there was some equipment but also a fenced off area that looked down into what I assume to be Roman ruins. Nothing much really..."

Those are the remains of an upper floor of a wealthy Roman home ~120AD. Regards, Walter

mdtravel May 9th, 2008 01:55 PM

Well thank you Walter! I know you could write an entire book on this most likely so don't hold back!

Vttraveler May 9th, 2008 02:26 PM

Favorite church, the Pantheon, definitely known to all

Right nearby, and also well-known, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva on a piazza diagonally SE of the back of the Pantheon. Known for the Bernini obelisk in front, Michalangelo's sculpture Christ the Redeemer, beautiful Gothic interior
There are pictures and a link to a map with this article:

I will add some more later when I can check more details

Vttraveler May 10th, 2008 05:09 AM

Two churches we visited on our last trip:
*San Pietro in MOntorio (St. Peter's on the Golden Hill)--notable for the REnaissance artwork in the interior and especially for Bramante's Tempietto in the courtyard. There is also a good view of Rome from the piazza. The church is open daily 8:30-noon and 1:30-5:30. Tempietto daily 8:30-noon and 3:30-5:30
Its address is Piazza San Pietro in Montorio 2, not much help. It is basically uphill from Trastevere, downhill from the Piazzale Garibaldi on the JAniculum. We found it easier/more pleasant to take the bus to the top of the Janiculum and walking downhill. San Pietro is very close to Santa Maria in Trastevere, another interesting church with beautiful mosaics.

*Santa Maria in Cosmedin--6th century church with a beautiful 12th century tower. The famous Bocca della Verita is set in a wall of the portico. It is at the northern end of Parco del Circo Massimo. It is open 9 to 5 winter, 9 to 7 or 8 summer so is one church it is easy to visit any time of day

During this most recent trip to Rome we were traveling with our teenage son who had limited interest in exploring churches, so we mostly chose churches that were convenient to other sites, along walks we were taking, etc. or went out early in the mornings on our own

On the list for next trip when my husband and I can devote more time to churches we especially want to see:
Santa Prassede
Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza
Santa Sabina
San Clemente

adrienne May 10th, 2008 08:46 AM

San Francisco a Ripa in Trastevere for Bernini's ecstacy of Ludovica Albertoni. It's as wonderful as his ecstacy of St. Teresa but you can get closer to it and there are few tourists coming to this church so you're not vying for space. The best time to view the sculpture is in the afternoon.

SusanP May 10th, 2008 09:43 AM

Another favorite in Trastavere, Santa Cecilia in Trastavere, both for the church itself and the crypt. Down in the crypt, make sure to go all the way to the end to see an absolutely amazing mosaic chapel.

St. Crisigono in Trastavere recently opened some great excavations underneath the church. Large area with some nice frescoes. Not for the handicapped.

soliera May 10th, 2008 11:18 AM

Santa Maria Maggiore

GranthamMommy May 10th, 2008 02:25 PM

On our first trip to Rome, we missed visiting the churces - okay we went to St. Peter's and the Pantheon. Next trip, wander and churches for sure. Then I can contribute. Thanks for the starter information.

rivoli May 10th, 2008 04:12 PM

One lovely afternoon, after walking all day, we stumbled upon Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale, the church of the Jesuit seminary on Quirinal Hill. We entered and I was grateful for the opportunity to get off my feet. I was so surprised when I looked around to see that it was very small. But it was a perfect little gem. It was oval in shape – something I had never seen before. Despite being loaded with all the gilding, cherubs and other baroque decoration (that set this gothic cathedral lovers teeth on edge) it all worked here. It had charm. It had a wonderful quality of light. It stole my heart. If it were a house for sale I would have bought it on the spot. I was “at home”. There were no other people there to interrupt my joy so I just walked around soaking everything in and feeling an incredible sense of happiness.

The church was designed by Bernini and Giovanni de’Rossi between 1658 an 1678. I’ll let you visit it if you go to Rome - as long as you remember that it is all mine.

gatorhunter May 10th, 2008 07:53 PM

My one and only trip to rome was in 06. I was able to visit not only the 4 major Basilicas of Rome but this one below. It is well with in walking distance of Santa Maria Maggiore.

Santa Prassede.

The write up on the web site is as follows.
"The church of Santa Prassede ( Saint Pudenziana's sister) was founded in the IXth century by Pope Pasquale II where there was an oratory. Byzantine artists adorned the church with golden mosaics. Those in the apse and in the courus rapresent the ancestors in white clothes, the elects who look down from Heaven, lambs with thin paws and lovely red poppies. Saint Prassede and Saint Pudenziana are beside Christ, surrounded by the warm and paternal embrase of Saint Paul and Saint Peter. You can admire dazzling mosaics also in the Chapel of Saint Zeno,built as mausoleum of Pope Pasquale II's mother, Teodora."

It is a place one that I loved just for the sheer beauty. My wife knows I have a thing for church art and architecture. I was even kicked out of one church on this trip only due to I was the only one there and it was closing and the guy wanted me out. I heard the lock click as I left. In Paris I even entered one church that was locked up till a group of three entered with a key so I boldly walked in took a quick look around and left. I got back across the street when the group of three locked the place back up and never knew I was even there.

Cimbrone May 11th, 2008 09:09 AM

SusanP, I was just listening to Rick Steves on NPR,and he had a guest on talking about Rome. When asked what hidden gem she would recommend to someone interested in art history, she recommended the crypt of Santa Cecilia.

SusanP May 11th, 2008 12:23 PM

Cimbrone, yes, it's really gorgeous. And so unexpected at the end of the crypt.

rivoli, you can't have Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale, I want it! :-d

The only reason I didn't mention it is that it was already listed. I've been to just about everything suggested here, but of course, there are many more still to see!

SallyCanuck May 12th, 2008 07:49 AM

After I'd been in Rome, I bought Holy Rome, A Millennium Guide to the Christian Sights - a Fodor's book - with information I'd wish I'd had when I was there.

dorkforcemom May 12th, 2008 08:17 AM

Wow - I don't have any to add, but plan to take this list for our visit next month. Thanks everyone!

colonna May 12th, 2008 09:58 AM

Another Borromini church, St Ivo della Sapienza. It is on the Rinascimento a block or so off the Corso Vittorio Emanuele.

It's hard to see the church; it's part of an arcaded courtyard housing some archives, which is often closed. Even if you get into the courtyard, the church itself is often closed. But you can see the spire from many places in the neighborhood: it is a spiral, allegedly modeled after a bee's stinger in honor of the Barberini. The three little hills of the Chigi family are up there too.

Maybe because it required a lot of tries before I saw it, I really loved it. The courtyard is like a cloister. The church is small and white, with some whacky convex/concave columnular stuff going on, and beautiful wings and cherubs on the walls.

It's a ravishing contrast to San Andrea delle Valle (gold, ornate, over the top), which is at the end of the street.

Vttraveler May 13th, 2008 04:42 AM

There is a lot of information about the design of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza and other churches by Bernini and Borromini in Jake Morrissey's The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome. This is a very readable book and is good preparation for a visit to Rome (along with Ross King's Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling)

sgbargyle May 13th, 2008 05:17 AM

Bookmarking. This is one of my favorite things to do and I am so glad to find this thread. Keep looking for the UNKOWN ones. When I was in India I did this with temples, churches, chapels and just fell in love with the concept of you can't tell a book by it's cover.

amyb May 13th, 2008 06:19 AM

As mentioned earlier, if you're interested in all the churches, look on, ebay or Alibiris for a used copy of Holy Rome, A Millennium Guide to the Christian Sights. It's out of print, but I took it to Rome in November and it was amazing...I didn't come across one church that wasn't in the book. And there's so much info in there that is not in a traditional guide book.

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