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ChatNoir May 21st, 2004 07:06 AM

Rome: Favorite Churches
I'd love to hear about your favorite churches in Rome (large and small), why you like them and where they are located or close to.

I've heard Santa Maria della Vittoria is known for Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa. Not sure where its located.

ellenem May 21st, 2004 07:54 AM

Santa Maria della Vittoria is on Via XX Settembre at Via Barberini.
Just down Via XX Settembre--two other favorites: San Carlino (at Quattro Fontane) and San Andrea in Qurinale, two jewlbox churches of similar small size but amazingly different feeling.
I love the amazing ceiling at S. Iganazio. Bring plenty of coins to turn on the lights.

ellenem May 21st, 2004 07:55 AM

Sorry, S. Ignazio, which is not far from the Pantheon, aother favorite "church."

lilygirl May 21st, 2004 08:02 AM

I was going to say Saint Ignazio as well. I believe it's off of the Via del Corso, near the Pantheon. As ellenm said, the ceiling is absolutely beautiful.

Also, my husband and I have just finished reading the Dan Brown book "Angels & Demons" and plan on visiting the churches in the novel when we return to Rome in November.

jimcolorado May 21st, 2004 08:24 AM

I don't know if the average tourist can just walk in off the street, but the La Chiesa della Santa Maria Asunta al monastero dell'Umiltà in the Casa Santa Maria at the Pontifical North American College is spectacular beyond words. It is located on Via Umlita just a couple of blocks from the Trevi Fountain.

jimcolorado May 21st, 2004 08:26 AM

I don't know if the average tourist can just walk in off the street, but the La Chiesa della Santa Maria Asunta al monastero dell'Umiltà in the Casa Santa Maria at the Pontifical North American College is spectacular beyond words. It is located on Via Umlita just a couple of blocks from the Trevi Fountain. Checi out this web site for some pictures

dmahalek May 21st, 2004 08:51 AM

Don't miss San Pietro in Vincoli, to see one of Michelangelo's great masterpieces, the statue of Moses, part of the unfinished tomb of Julius II found on the right front side of the church. The main alter displays the chains supposedly used to imprison St. Peter. If memory serves me right, it is located just of Via Cavour between the main railway terminal and the Colosseum.

bmillersc May 21st, 2004 09:10 AM

We found the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi between the Piazza Navona and the Pantheon to be quite beautiful. It contains beatiful work by Caravaggio.

Jackie_in_Italy May 21st, 2004 09:14 AM

I also really love Santa Maria della Vittoria and try to get in to visit every trip to Rome (even if it's a simple day trip). I also think that San Pietro in Vincoli is charming (I actually accessed it from the Colosseum, since from Via Cavour we couldn't find an entrance, but it could just be that we were mistaken).

Santa Maria Maggiore is also amazing, one of the four major basilicas in Rome. Last time I was there, my mother noticed that it houses wood from Christ's cradle, which I had never noticed before. It has some incredible mosaics that should not be missed.

Some nice small churches with quite a few treasures are San Luigi dei Francesi, with its paintings by Caravaggio, and another Caravaggio church: Santa Maria del Popolo, in Piazza del Popolo. This has quite a few Renaissance masterpieces, including a sculpture by Bernini that is similar to the one in Santa Maria della Vittoria.

A charming church that we found on my last visit to Rome is San Martino ai Monti, which has an excavated crypt area with a beautiful mosaic and altar. We felt we had really found something here, since we wandered into it without any searching at all (it was just on our way from Santa Maria Maggiore to San Pietro in Vincoli).

Also, I love Santa Maria in Trastevere and its cool, town-like piazza.

jimcolorado: Santa Maria in Asunta sounds wonderful. How were you able to visit?

MLnLA May 21st, 2004 09:43 AM

I plan on visiting several churches while in Rome and will take this post with me. I was wondering if anyone had been to the new Richard Meier designed Jubilee Church on the outskirts of Rome. I know the modern design won't appeal to everyone.

Are most churches in Rome open during the week? Does anyone know of an English website that identifies the different churches in Rome? Thanks!

bookchick May 21st, 2004 10:00 AM

Santa Maria sopra Minerve, which contains the relics and remains of my patron saint, and is the only Gothic church in Rome.

Santa Maria in Aracoli, which is lit by candlelight and by nature.

San Carlo al Corso, where I'll usually attend Mass and pray and light candles for personal reasons while in Roma.

and San Giovanni in Laterno, with marvelous sculptures, postings about holy indulgences inside, and one of the coolest post-fire restorations you'll ever see. The Pope is often referred to as "The Bishop of Rome", and this is considered the Cathedral where he presides.

Buon Viaggio!


Grinisa May 21st, 2004 10:01 AM

Here is a great website of Roman churches:
Churches have widely varying opening hours. Many churches are closed indefinitely for restoration. Some small churches are only open for Sunday Mass or on one other day of the week. Some are only open once a year on special feast days. The four basilicas are usually open all day. Most other churches that are visited by tourists are open from either 7 or 8 am until 12 or 1 pm and then open again at 3, 4, or 5 pm for a couple of hours. I love every church in Rome, large or small but I think my favorite is Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.

jimcolorado May 21st, 2004 10:05 AM

Our Catholic bishop here in Colorado wrote us a letter of recommendation for "special seating" at the Papal audience on Wednesday when we were in Rome. American vistor's to Rome can pick up tickets (special seating and nor so special) at the American college. When we arrived, the Monsignor asked if would like a short tour of the facility. Like many places in Rome, the front door was intercom and electically controlled, earlier comment about "walk-ins." I seemed to remember the Monsignor telling us that the chapel had once been used as a stable by some invading army, possible Napoleon, but now I am not so sure.

BTW the "special seating" was really quite special. We were seated in the section on the same level as the Holy Father, and just to his left. We got there early enough that morning to be in the very front row. It was incredible! While we were being directed to the front steps, my wife kept muttering, "This has to be a mistake, we can't be seated this close, We're going to get thrown out." The best moment was when the Pope rode around in front of us in the Popemobile. Not a dry eye anywhere. I ended up supporting a little old Italian lady who was overcome with emotion. I will never forget a minute of it.

ChatNoir May 21st, 2004 11:46 AM

Thank you all for sharing with me. I'm going to include several on my next trip.

EyeSpyEurope May 21st, 2004 12:15 PM

I have to agree with Jackie. I am very partial to the area around San Martino ai Monti. I love that church and the neighborhood. You can go to San Pietro in Vincoli, then up to San Martino ai Monti, then through the back streets to Santa Prassede with gorgeous mosaics and a pillar of Christ on which he was scourged (5 minutes from San Martino crossing via Giovanni Lanza). And since this church is off the beaten path, I have never seen many tourists (if any) in it. Then you can walk to Santa Maria Maggiore (which is closed usually from about 12:30-3:30pm and then reopens from about 4-6pm or 7pm, I can't remember).

Some others I love posted by Fodorites: definitely I would recommend Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, then walk down to Santa Susanna (the American Roman Catholic church in Rome) which has lovely frescoes as well. Sant'Andrea is circular and very baroque -- it's beautiful. Then next to Santa Susanna go to Santa Maria della Vittoria for the renowned Cornaro chapel.

After that, I'd walk towards the Trinita del Monte, look around, then down the Spanish Steps, down via del Babuino to your right at the bottom and into Piazza del Popolo to Santa Maria del Popolo for the Cerasi chapel and the 2 Caravaggios on either side of the Assumption by one of the Caracci brothers. You can walk from San Pietro in Vincoli to Santa Maria del Popolo and visit all the churches I mentioned in that order and see a lot of Rome already!

Another nice church: Santa Maria in Aracoeli (pronounced AH-RAH-CHELL-EE)next to the Vittorio Emmanuele II monument (make sure the large sign at the top of the staircase reads "APERTO" before walking up!). This church has about 13 chapels and it is marvelous. Pinturrichio painted the Life of Saint Bernard frescoes in one of the chapels but the chapel may be closed to visitors but you can still strain a good view of it through the locked gate, followed by Il Gesu (the Jesuits' mother church with its recently cleaned interior, total in-your-face baroque exuberance (check out St. Ignatius of Loyola's tomb) and the chapel dedicated to the Madonna next to it on the right), then go down Corso Vittorio Emmanuele II into Sant'Andrea della Valle with its exquisite frescoes of the Martyrdom of Saint Andrew, then cross the corso, go to Saint Louis des Francais (a 5-minute walk from Sant'Andrea della Valle) -- watch out for the gypsy beggar/pickpockets outside and admire the Contarelli chapel of St. Matthew that made Caravaggio so famous (bring coins for the light box). I do not remember which day Saint Louis des Francais is closed to the public; I believe it is Thursdays but am not certain. YOu will then have seen some beautiful churches, truly.

If there is time after Saint Louis des Francais, then wing over to the Pantheon because next door is Santa Maria sopra Minerva: check out the Carafa chapel with the frescoes of the Virgin by Pinturrichio (standing in front of the high altar, first chapel to your right -- bring some coins for the light box), cross over the high altar to view Saint Catherine of Siena's tomb (she is one of the patron saints of Italy). To its left is a statue of Saint John the Baptist by Michelangelo. Further to the left facing the high altar is a little stairwell with Fra Angelico's tomb to the left. Notice the very ornate blue ceiling of Santa Maria with gold stars.

One more tip: do try to get to San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran), the first Catholic church in the world and mother of all Christian churches. There are a lot less tourists here than at the Vatican and you will be no less impressed at the artwork and beauty of the church, an ancient home of a Roman family Emperor Constantine had turned out of their house when he converted to Christianity.

Lastly, if you are in Trastevere, check out Santa Maria in Trastevere and look up San Francesco a Ripa with its famous Bernini statue of Blessed Ludovica Albertoni -- a lot of tourists don't know about this church. It is lovely.

Just be sure to get opening times for the Roman churches: most are closed from around 12-4pm or so (except the pontifical basilicas of St. Peter's, St. John Lateran, St. Paul outside the Walls and Santa Maria Maggiore) -- caveat: Santa Maria Maggiore is closed from about 12-3pm which I don't understand since it's a pontifical basilica. Have a great trip! Lucky you.

capo May 21st, 2004 12:39 PM

I saw Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa, in Santa Maria della Vittoria, mentioned in a guidebook on my first visit to Rome and really liked it.

Three other favorites of mine are the same three ellenem mentioned. The <i>trompe l'oeil</i> dome in Sant' Ignazio is fascinating,

and San Carlino and San Andrea in Qurinale, the two small churches on Via del Quirinale -- across the street from the Quirinale Palace and separated by a nice park -- are interesting not only because they're beautiful, but because the were designed by competing architects; Borromini (who also did St Agnese in Piazza Navona) and Bernini (who did the fountain across from St Agnese.) John J. McGuire, Jr., in his excellent (and, I believe, out-of-print book) <i>An Architect's Rome</i> refers to Via del Quirinale as &quot;the street of dueling churches&quot; for this reason.

San Carlino:

Another church I liked was Sant'Andrea delle Valle, just about a block south of Piazza Navona, because the gold lettering around the top of the church was stunning in the late afternoon sun.

KT May 21st, 2004 01:02 PM

A couple more that I like for their mosiacs:

Santa Prassede -- Very near Santa Maria Maggiore; 9th century mosaics including the Chapel of S. Zeno.

Santa Costanza -- Out on the Via Nomentana, next to the Baslica of S. Agnese, which has visitable catacombs; lovely 4th century mosaics in the dome that are early enough to still resemble classical Roman mosaics.

I have a long (mental) list of Roman churches that I like for at least one thing, but I'll stop there for now.

KT May 21st, 2004 01:12 PM

My mistake -- I see that Santa Prassede has already been mentioned. So I'll throw in this quirky one: Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza. It's just about never open to the public, because it's part of the University of Rome, but if you're in the neighborhood (it's just east of Piazza Navona), you can peek at the Borromini courtyard in front of it and see the amazing Borromini lantern atop the dome.

ChatNoir May 21st, 2004 03:39 PM

Wow! This is a super response. Please keep them coming.

Grinisa - that website you recommended is a wonderful planning tool.

nanb May 21st, 2004 05:01 PM

I must second Santa Maria sopra Minerve, which Book Chick mentioned !

this was my 4th trip to rome, but only my first to this amazingly lovely church. I loved it so much I returned the next day towing my children behind me.

The blues of the ceilings are astounding, and if you have a choice of time to go, make it later in the day.
I went in around 7pm ,before dusk.
and the lighting was so lovely.
It is so easy to find as it is basically next door to the Pantheon.

The outside of it is so plain I did not know what it was at first.
But the little Bernini elephant will let you know you are there.

there is a statue of Christ inside attributed to Michaelangelo.The loin cloth was added later.

I think every church I have entered is lovely, but this is a favorite of mine.

KT May 21st, 2004 05:19 PM

Oh dear, I hope it won't ruin anyone's day to learn that the blue vault of Sta. Maria Sopra Minerva is part of the 19th century &quot;restoration,&quot; which was a kind of super-bright super-Gothicization similar to what the Victorians did to old English churches.

MMM May 21st, 2004 07:38 PM

I would add San Clemente, not far from San Giovanni in Laterano, because of its several &quot;layers&quot; of church that contain some faint wall paintings in the lower church. Also, Sant'Agostino in Campo Marzio has a colorful interior and is located a short walk from the Pantheon.


Underhill May 21st, 2004 08:04 PM

San Clemente, si! And for something completely different, San Stefano Rotundo--a round church, not in very good shape these days, with huge wall frescoes of the martyrdoms of various saints. It's an amazing sight.

susiel May 21st, 2004 09:03 PM

Great thread everyone! Does anyone know which church is supposed to be the one that the apostle Paul died in? I believe there is catacombs where he was supposed to have been imprisoned.....

bmillersc May 22nd, 2004 04:05 AM

Two others we found excellent, but have already been mentioned by others, but will second them anyway: Il Gesu, and Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Alec May 22nd, 2004 04:26 AM

St Paul was supposed to have been beheaded at Tre Fontane, now a Trappist monastery a short way from EUR exposition centre.
I don't know about his imprisonment (according to NT he was kept under a kind of house arrest?), but for a time his and St Peter's remains were hidden in the catacombs of St Sebastian during persecutions.

platzman May 22nd, 2004 05:40 AM

It would be inconceivable to me to visit Rome and not see all 4 major basilicas of the Roman Catholic Church:
St. Peter's
St. Mary Major
St. John Lateran
St. Paul Outside the Walls
They are all outstanding in their own ways and well worth a visit. There are also at least 15 to 20 other churches in Rome not to be missed if you have time. I've barely scratched the surface and have spent a total of 2 months in Rome.

ChatNoir May 22nd, 2004 05:58 AM

Platzman wrote: There are also at least 15 to 20 other churches in Rome not to be missed if you have time.

Don't be a tease - tell us what they are. We are not lucky enough to live there.

CafeBatavia May 22nd, 2004 08:57 AM

The church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin is located in the Piazza Bocca della Verit&agrave;.

The church is also called Santa Maria in Scuola Greca, because mass is celebrated according to the Greek Orthodox tradition.

In Antiquity there was an open air altar dedicated to Hercules, and in the 3rd century a chapel ws build on top of the ruins. This chapel was incorporated into a 6th century church, which in turn was enlarged and restored by Hadrian I in the 8th century. Hadrian I gave the church to greek monks that had escaped iconoclasm in Constantinoble, and it has been a Greek Orthodox church since then. The church was later restored after the sacking of Rome by Robert Guiscard in 1082. The tower was added in the 12th century.

Under the portico there is the (in)famous Bocca della Verit&agrave;.

Inside the church is divided in three naves by 18 ancient and medieval colunms of varying designs and sizes. Above the altar is a canopy by Deodato di Cosma the Young from 1294. The floor is from the 8th century, and further decorated by the Cosmas in the 13th century.

In the sacristy there is a mosaic dating from the 8th century, originating from the first Saint Peters.

CafeBatavia May 22nd, 2004 09:00 AM

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme (Holy Cross in Jerusalem). 12 Piazza di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.

The church was consecrated about 325, in an older building that was rebuilt to house the Passion Relics brought to Rome by St Helena. The fa&ccedil;ade is from the 18th century, in the Baroque style.

If you walk around the church, it is still possible to see the original Roman masonry in some places and the ruins of a medieval cloister. The Passion Relics were transferred to a new chapel: Two thorns from the crown of thorns, A nail from the Crucifixion, Splinters of the True Cross and part of the good thief's cross.

The church was included in the pilgrims' itinerary, and later became a Jubilee basilica.

CafeBatavia May 22nd, 2004 09:12 AM

Basilica of the Santi Quattro Coronati and the medieval cloister.

Be sure to visit the chapel of San Silvestro with its beautiful fresco cycle. You need to ring the bell and a nun will appear behind a grate. Ask her for the chiave to the chapel and she will put it in a turntable next to the grate. A small donation is expected. Try to go in the early evening and you can sit in the church and her the nuns singing vespers.

Eloise May 22nd, 2004 09:17 AM

The early Christian churches of Rome are fascinating and too often forgotten. San Clemente has been mentioned, but not Santa Sabina (with Corinthian columns taken from a Roman building, mosaics, and a 5th-century wooden door with scenes from the New Testament, including one of the earliest known representations of the Crucifixion), Santa Prisca (near Santa Sabina on the Aventine), Santi Quattro Coronati (near San Stefano Rotondo, which has been mentioned), San Marco (a tiny 9th-century church in or near Palazzo Venezia).

I second Sant'Agnese (on via Nomentana, not Borromini's Sant'Agnese in Agone in Piazza Navona) and the small round Santa Costanza that adjoins it (originally built to hold the tomb of Santa Costanza, with rounded vaults covered in mosaics that are fascinating because their iconography is more classical than Christian).

Anoter vote also for Borromini's exquisite Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza (located within the Palazzo della Sapienza, entrance from Corso Rinascimento).

At San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, do not miss the cloister.

The cloister at San Giovanni in Laterano with its exquisite Cosmatesque columns should be visited, if only to bemoan the vandalism of tourists who, since I first visited it in 1966, have destroyed the decoration of roughly half the columns...

EyeSpyEurope May 22nd, 2004 09:25 AM

CafeBatavia: Where is Santi Quattro Coronati located? I don't know this church but shall check it out on my next visit to Rome. Do you know when the church closes because I'll take your advice and go in the early evening when the nuns are singing vespers. If they are cloistered, I imagine they are either Poor Clares or Carmelites. Do you know?

CafeBatavia May 22nd, 2004 09:31 AM

Chiesa Nuova is a highly ornate Baroque church. Just off Via del Governo Vecchio. Principal features include three paintings by Rubens and Pietro da Cortona?s ceiling paintings.

Behind the church, the delightful small square of Piazza del Orologio is so-called because of the quaint clocktower that is its main feature. The clock is part of the Oratorio dei Filipini, designed by Carlo Borromini, which backs onto the Chiesa Nuova and is part of the same complex.

Just off the square, there?s a scatter of antique and bric-a-brac shops, that signal that you?re just around the corner from Rome?s antiques ghetto, Via dei Coronari.

CafeBatavia May 22nd, 2004 09:38 AM


20 Piazza dei Santi Quattro Coronati

I think its a convent of Augustinian nuns. Not sure when it closes.

nanb May 22nd, 2004 02:25 PM

It doesn't matter to me if the ceilings in the Santa Maria sopra Minerva are 100 yrs old or 500 yrs old.
The color of the blue and it's beauty is still breathtaking to me.
But, that is something I had no idea about and is interesting.

ChatNoir May 23rd, 2004 06:14 AM

Thanks again for all the great feedback. I'm going to do some research and try to add a few more.

I plan to group them by location and take a couple of long morning walks to check them out. Might be a good rainy day option as well.

ChatNoir May 23rd, 2004 06:30 AM

Visit San Clemente - 12th Century Brasilica sits atop a 4th Century christian church which sits atop a 2nd Century Mithraic Temple. Several deep tunnels, an underground stream and burial place of St. Cyril.

On via San Giovanni. Metro: Colosseo.

ChatNoir May 23rd, 2004 06:36 AM

Attend mass at Santa Susanna - the church of the American community in Rome?

Santa Susanna seems broad and spacious, filled with light and awash with pastel colors. The nave is richly frescoed with huge figures, classical vistas and luminous green gardens, and speckled with light golden stucco-work throughout.

ChatNoir May 23rd, 2004 06:37 AM

Enjoy a taste of the macabre. A little way up Via Veneto, the Capuchin church of Santa Maria della Concezione contains a Capuchin cemetery which is one of the more bizarre sights of Rome.

The bones of 4000 monks are set into the walls of a series of chapels, a monument to &quot;Our Sister of Bodily Death&quot;, in the words of St Francis, that was erected in 1793. The bones appear in abstract or Christian patterns or as fully clothed skeletons, their faces peering out of their cowls in various twisted expressions of agony - somewhere between the chilling and the ludicrous.

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