An old proverb says, “There are more churches in Rome than days in the year.” Below we have selected a few based not only on their religious importance but also for their architectural curiosities and the famous works of art housed within them. Even if the Pantheon is technically a church – St. Mary and the Martyrs - it is not listed here but in the sightseeing section.Churches are free to enter. Still check for when services are held, as tourists are understandably not allowed in when places of worship are performing their primary function. You are welcome to attend mass and what better place to do so than in Rome?
Sant'Agnese in Agone / Eng: St. Agnes in Agony
St. Agnes is sited where the saint was martyred, the Circus of Domitian, now Piazza Navona. The facade was completed by the Baroque genius Francesco Borromini and is considered among his most important creations.
Basilica di S.Clemente / Eng: Basilica of St. Clement
Should you be on pilgrimage or just seeing the sights, you will find that the San Clemente is not just another church in Rome, it is unique. Visit a 4th century structure to explore what was once a pagan temple.
S.S Cosma e Damiano / Eng: Basilica of Saints Cosmas & Damian
This church is the oldest in the Imperial Forum and it adjoins the ancient Roman Temple of Jupiter Stator. Early original Christian mosaics in the apse depict Saints Cosmas and Damian, who were twin brothers and physicians.
San Luigi dei Francesi / Eng: The Church of St. Louis of the French
Designed by Giacomo della Porta and built by Domenico Fontana, St. Louis is the National Church of France in Rome. The church's most famous item is a cycle of paintings by Caravaggio depicting the life of St. Matthew.
S. Maria in Aracoeli / Eng: St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven
The Church, which is famous for its baby Jesus carved from olive wood from the Garden of Gethsemane, sits aloft a steep staircase. Inside is a column from Augustus’ bedchamber among many originating from the Roman forums.
S. Maria in Cosmedin / Eng: St. Mary in Cosmedin
The church derives its name from a Greek word meaning “ornamental.” In fact, inside there are marvellous Byzantine mosaics. Outside is maybe the busiest portico in Rome, as the Mouth of Truth (of “Roman Holiday” fame) is housed here.
Sinagoga di Roma / Eng: Synagogue of Rome
The location chosen for Rome’s synagogue took into consideration the Jewish Ghetto along the Tiber and proximity to the Altar to the Nation. The synagogue houses a museum on Rome’s Jewish community.
San Pietro in Vaticano / St. Peter’s Square and Basilica
As you cross the Tiber, the arms of Bernini’s colonnade around St. Peter’s Square embrace you as you approach the heart of the Roman Catholic world – the Vatican. St. Peter’s is built on the site where the saint was buried.
Tour tip - “Water, water everywhere and every drop to drink”
Rome has higher rainfall than famously wet London. The difference is that when it rains in Rome, it pours. Therefore, if the forecast says rain, rain it will be and you are best heading for a museum. The upside is the city is full of free running drinking fountains, which have clean fresh and free water. Take a bottle with you and perhaps some rehydration minerals in powder.When someone is drinking from the fountain, you can always tell if they are a tourist as they are awkwardly craned over the nozzle. However, you can look cool while cooling down. Place your thumb over the nozzle to partially block the water flow and a stream of H2O will sprout out of a little hole in the top of the nozzle.
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