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Visiting Rome’s Historic Churches and Basilicas 

Entering Rome’s center, where history, creativity, and faith come together to form a breathtaking tapestry of human accomplishments. Each turn of the historic streets and piazzas reveals a new architectural marvel, and every church or basilica is an incredible collection of tradition, faith, and art. Join us on a captivating adventure as we explore the great churches and basilicas of Rome, which hold centuries of dedication and artistic brilliance, and reveal their profound significance and everlasting beauty.

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Here are a few of Rome’s ancient churches and basilicas.

Santa Stefano Rotondo

The uniqueness of this church stems from its surprising circular inner design placed behind its flat outside façade, as the name indicates. The church, which is located on Caelian Hill, was originally commissioned around the end of the 5th century however, as is often the case, significant work has subsequently been done. It was adorned with mosaics and colored marble in the next century, and Pope Innocent II had it renovated in the 12th century. 

After Santo Stefano degli Ungharesi was demolished in 1778 to make space for St Peter’s Basilica, the church is now Hungary’s national church in Rome. As far as churches in Rome go, this may not be the most noticeable, but the fact that it is a bit off the main path and completely distinct makes a trip to Santo Stefano Rotondo all the more rewarding.

Basilica di San Clemente

Image from flickr

Despite its proximity to the Colosseum, this ancient basilica is less well-known among tourists. Exploring Basilica di San Clemente, filled with 2000 years of history, is a true excavation as you may step deeper and further back in time and enjoy a tour of the two lowest levels. These consist of the original 4th-century basilica that lies beneath the current structure, as well as the remnants of an earlier 1st-century structure! 

Digging in the early twentieth century showed that the foundations go further deeper, to a fourth layer of structures destroyed by Nero’s fire in 64 AD. However, the greatest attraction on the street level is the magnificent collection of Byzantine mosaics. The gleaming 12th-century gold tiles in the apse represent the typical Byzantine theme of the Victory of the Cross. Skip the crowded lines at the Colosseum and head to this multi-layered banquet of history.

Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran

The church is the oldest and most important of the four major papal basilicas, as well as one of Rome’s Seven Pilgrim Churches, with the unique title of “Archbasilica.” It is the earliest public church in Rome and the greatest basilica in the Western world, having been built in 32. It holds the Roman bishop’s cathedral and is known as the catholic mother church of the Catholic believers. During the middle Ages, the structure deteriorated and was severely destroyed by a couple of fires in the 14th century. During the tenure of Pope Sixtus V in the late 16th century, it was restored. The inside of the new construction was restored in the late 17th century, and its exterior was completed in 1735 under Pope Clement XII.

Papal Basilica of St Mary Major

Image from Wikipedia

On the peak of the Esquiline Hill lies Rome’s largest Catholic Marian Church. The classical building was built between 432 and 440 by Pope Sixtus III in response to the 431 announcement that Mary was the Mother of God. The “Crypt of the Nativity” also known as the “Bethlehem Crypt” is located under the high altar and houses a crystal reliquary that is supposed to have wood from Jesus Christ’s Holy Crib. The nave is supported by Athenian marble columns and mosaics, which are thought to be the oldest images of the Virgin Mary in Late Christian History. The tallest structure in Rome is the 14th-century bell tower, which is 246 feet tall.