Christian Rome, Rome
A short walk from the Aventine Hill is the Protestant Cemetery (Cimitero Acattolico), where non-Catholics are buried. The peaceful space next to the ancient Roman wall is crowded with tombstones and memorials. Placid cats wander along the narrow paths, and trees reach upwards to the sky. The most famous graves are those of poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley. Keats lies alongside his faithful friend Joseph Severn, in a grassy space overlooked by the gleaming white walls of the Pyramid of Gaius Cestius (Piramide di Caio Cestio). This Roman noble rather fancied the idea of the Egyptian pyramids, and thought it might be nice to have one of his own; he was buried here in 12BC.
Here lies one whose name was writ on water
The Pyramid is only opened occasionally; but you can get a good view from the street and from the Protestant Cemetery.
If the Grand Tourists and Rome's connections with English poetry interest you; the Keats-Shelley House is also well-worth a visit. Right next to the busy Spanish Steps, the museum is peaceful and charmingly old-fashioned; displays include relics of the two poets (Keats died in this building) and their contemporaries.
This attractive church is a few minutes walk from the Colosseum, up Via di San Giovanni in Laterano. The basilica is airy, with an attractive cloister. A gorgeous mosaic in the apse is rich and colourful, with charming animal details. But the best attraction lies underground. In the Basilica di San Clemente, three levels of history are preserved one above the other. Below the present church, which was begun in 1108 and reconstructed six centuries later, lies an older church. This is an extremely ancient place of worship, and was mentioned by St Jerome in 392. It was destroyed by the Normans, and the later church was built above it, but you can still walk around the earlier structure and admire some remarkable frescoes. These include a fine account of the life of St. Alexis - read the entertaining text provided.
The deepest level consists of ancient Roman constructions, including a narrow alleyway and an assortment of small rooms including an early Christian meeting place. The most interesting section is the Mithraeum, with its characteristic stone benches and Mithraic altar, and a Mithraic 'schoolroom'.
Tip: the small shop/ticket office sells a very good range of postcards, including details of the mosaic which make good gifts and Christmas cards. Entrance to the subterranean archeological site is €3.
This church, newly restored and only recently re-opened, is unmissable. It's an entirely different experience to the magnificent grandiosity of so many Roman churches.
Tucked away between the Colosseum and San Giovanni in Laterano, it's hard to believe that this quiet (ish) area is so near the centre of the modern city. The round church really is ancient; it was built in the 460s AD.
It's a hugely atmopheric place, its two concentric rings of columns touched by the light that floods in through the 22 windows. There are four chapels (all closed off when I visited, for restoration work is ongoing, so that the structure forms a cross shape. Some of the original Roman black-and-white mosaic flooring has been left in situ, and the whole structure overlies and earlier Mithraeum (as is often the case in Rome).
Around the inner wall are frescoes of martyrs, showing in detail the manner of their deaths. Fascinatingly gruesome, and an indication of the workings of the Medieval religious mind (they date from the sixteenth century).
It's worth taking some time out to visit this church: it is really special. My travelogue has more photos:
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo runs from Piazza S. Giovanni in Laterano, or you can access it by walking up Via Claudia from the Colosseum (it's on the right). The church is at the Via Claudia end, but the entrance isn't very obvious (which is why I've put it as the main photo). Open usual Roman church times, roughly 7/8 - 12 and 3- 7.
Interesting place this. Basically, it's a series of Roman rooms, many with frescoes, discovered underneath the church of San Giovanni e Paulo, tucked away in a remarkably quiet area near the Colosseum.
The 5th century church stands over a complex of several Roman houses which was discovered by an excavating priest in 1887. The site is said to include where the martyrs Giovanni and Paulo lived (hence the dedication of the church). Executed in the reign of Julian the Apostate, they were supposedly buried in their own house so there are various (later) altars and shrines to them within.
In the third century the houses were combined into one larger dwelling, and the whole complex is a good example of how buildings changed and adapted over the whole Roman period.
The wall frescoes are, to be honest, somewhat primitive in execution but nevertheless worth seeing, particularly if one has seen more adept frescoes elsewhere. They show more clearly what 'ordinary' well-off romans had in their houses, rather than the beautiful and laborate decorations of the super-wealthy one sees in museums and palaces.
Worth seeking out this place, I think. The little museum within is particularly well set-out.
Open every day except Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 - 1 and from 3 - 6. Admission 6 euros. Guided tours available at weekends (need booking).
The entrance is on Clivio de Scauro. Walk down Via di S. Gregorio from the Colosseum: Clivio di Scauro is on the left (with your back to the Colosseum), off the Viale del Parco del Cielo.
Phone: +39 06 70 45 45 44
Even if you have no interest in art, even if you’ve never heard of Caravaggio, pay a visit to this church and the famous Contarelli Chapel (the first chapel on the left closest to the altar). If you’re near Piazza Navona, you’re less than 5 minutes away. Bring some coins with you to turn on the timed lights for the chapel.
The photo is of one of the three famous Caravaggio masterpieces – paintings on the life of St. Matthew, which marked a turning point in his career. This is the “Calling of St. Matthew” and shows the masterful technique for which Caravaggio is so famous – the use of light and dark – which so many followers imitated. Note the dark void between Christ (with the halo) and St. Peter, and Matthew the tax collector and his colleagues. And see how the dramatically lit hand of Christ visually and metaphorically crosses the void as he calls Matthew, and Matthew seems to say, “Who, me?”
The earliest of the three paintings is the one on the right, “The Martyrdom of St. Matthew”. The last was the altar piece "The Inspiration of St. Matthew." Matthew, one of the four gospel writers, as was customary, is pictured with an angel, just as Luke is usually pictured with an ox, John with an Eagle and Mark with a lion.
See this website for better reproductions of these and other works of Caravaggio.
Near the chapel, the church has placed a small display and explanation of the paintings in French, Italian and English.
The church (facade designed by Giacomo della Porta) is dedicated to St. Louis IX, king and patron saint of France, who lead the crusades. But the facade isn't stylistically representative of della Porta. It is relatively austere and static compared to Il Gesu'. One of my knowledgeable friends wonders if the French commission required something more sedate.
Address: 5 Piazza San Luigi dei Francesi / Via Santa Giovanna d'Arco. Between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to noon - 3:30 to 7:00 p.m.
It is located in Trastevere (Piazza di Santa Cecilia 22)
The first church of Santa Cecilia was founded probably in the 5th century, by Pope Urban I, and devoted to the Roman martyr Cecilia. Tradition holds that the church was built over the house of the saint. The baptistery of this church, together with the remains of a Roman Imperial house, was found during some excavations under the Chapel of the Relics. In the synod of 499 of Pope Symmachus, the church is indicated with the Titulus Ceciliae. On 22 November 545, Pope Vigilius was celebrating the saint in the church, when the emissary of Empress Theodora, Antemi Scribone, captured him.
Pope Paschal I rebuilt the church in 822, and moved here the relics of St Cecilia from the catacombs of St Calixtus. More restorations followed in the 18th century.
The Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Caeciliae is Carlo Maria Martini. Among the previous titulars are Pope Stephen III, Thomas Wolsey and Giuseppe Maria Doria Pamphili.
If possible try to visit the Cavallini Frescoes on the upper floor. They are available only Tuesday and Thursday from 10 to 11.30 and Sundy morning at 11.30 for about 30 minutes.
For those who would like to get a better view of St.Peter's Cupola, I suggest to get to Via Piccolomini. Due to an optical illusion it seems huge but this changes when you move towards the Cupola itself.
By car/taxi it takes about 10 minutes to get to Via Piccolomi from the Vatican.
On YouTube you can watch an abstract from Antonioni's movie "L'Avventura" where you can see Via Piccolomini in the 1960:
Church of Santa Maria in Campo Marzio
Via di Campo Marzio 45/a
(not far from the Pantheon)
Eastern Catholic Church with syriac rites obedient to the Pope. Sunday Mass (10.30am) is celebrated in Aramaic.
The church is not open to the public but stays open for little time after Mass.
A special itinerary in Rome that will allow you to discover most of the masterpieces by the great Italian Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (born in Naples 1598 - died in Rome 1680) , son of Pietro Bernini (artist himself). :
Basilica of Santa Prassede
(few minutes walk from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore)
Tomb of Bishop Giovan Battista Santoni (One of the earliest works, he was 17 yrs. old)
Borghese Gallery (several statues)
Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria (see my other tip about it!!)
Barberini Palace and Barberini Square
(several busts, paintings and the 2 fountains on the square)
Church of Santa Bibiana
Via G.Giolitti 154
"Statue of Santa Bibiana"
Church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale
Via del Quirinale 29
The entire church project was given to Bernini
Church of Sant'Andrea delle Fratte
Via S.Andrea delle Fratte 1
2 Angel statues near the main altar
The "Barcaccia" fountain by Pietro & GianLorenzo Bernini
Church of Santa Maria del Popolo (Chigi Chapel)
Piazza del Popolo 12
"Abacuc and the Angel" + "Daniel"
Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina
Piazza S.Lorenzo in Lucina
"Bust of Gabriele Fonseca"
Capitoline Museum (www.museicapitolini.org)
Piazza del Campidoglio 1
The "Head of Medusa"
Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Piazza della Minerva
funeral memorial of Sister Maria Raggi
Church del Gesù (www.chiesadelgesu.org)
Piazza del Gesù
Monument to San Roberto Bellarmino
"Four River Fountain"
Basilica and Square of San Pietro (Vatican)
Few funeral monuments, the St. Peter's Chair, the Scala Regia, the bronze canopy above the main altar and the square with its colonnade.
Church of San Francesco a Ripa
Piazza S. Francesco d'Assisi 88 (Trastevere)
Monument of Ludovica Albertoni
Church of Santa Maria di Monserrato
Via Giulia 151
"Bust of Monsignor Pedro de Foix Montoya"
He also took part to several architectural projects not listed here!!
Madonna dell'Archetto(Chapel) - Our Lady of the small Arch
Via di San Marcello, corner Via dell'Archetto
(Trevi Fountain area)
Mon-Sat. 6pm-8pm recital of the rosary
Sunday mass at 7pm
The church of Santa Maria della Vittoria holds one of Bernini's most famous works: The Ecstasy of St.Teresa in the Cornaro chapel(the fourth on the left).
This Art Gem is more visited now because it is mentioned in the Angels & Demons book by Dan Brown.
Located on Via XX Settembre 17, not far from Piazza della Repubblica and Via Veneto, can be visited from 8.30 till 11am and from 3.30 till 6pm but I suggest to call ahead and check.
Going across the river from the Isola Tiberina you end up in a little place of Trastevere neighborhood called piazza in Piscinula. A visit to the piazza church - San Benedetto in Piscinula - is worth a detour. there you will find the place where St. Benedict lived before going to Subiaco. The church itself is medieval and basically everything is orginal. You will find there the smallest bell tower and the oldest bell of Rome. The chuch is taking care of by the Heralds of the Gospel, a new religious community. When visiting, if you have any questions, they can answer you in English, French Italian, Spanish, Portuguese. They know their history, do not hesitate to ask since you won't find out much if you don't read italian...
I don't know whether this should be under off the beaten track or warning.
This is a beaten track allright. Everybody wants to climb the stairs of St Peter's basilica to reach the top and have a fantastic view. You can either climb the stairs or use an elevator . The stairs are narrow accomodating a single file of people. This climb is not for the fainthearted or the claustrophobic.
I climbed with a group of nuns they huffed and puffed. Their comment 'the trials and tribulations we have to face to meet our lord ' says it all.
Well, it's not so off the beaten path, but somehow many people, going to the Colosseo pass near the little church of S. Pietro in Vincoli (something like St. Peter in Chains), and do not enter it.
Inside there is this big statue (part of the monumental tomb of a Pope) of Moses.
Legend is that the author, when finished, was so overcome by its life-like features, that he exclaimed, 'Speak! Why don't you speak to me?' hitting the statue's knee with its hammer (there is a little sign, in fact).
Oh, the author was someone called Michelangelo.... no need to tell last name was Buonarroti!
Do not miss it!
By the way, the name of the curch cames from the legend that Eudossia, wife of roman Emperor Valentiniano III, had the chains that held St. Peter prisoner in Jerusalem, ad made a gift of them to the Pope Leone Magno (the one who stopped the barbarian king Attila near Garda lake). When these chains touched the other that held St. Peter when jailed in Rome (legend says...) the two sets of chains fused and merged together.......
Oh, the chains are on display in the church.... if you like that sort of legend... (I guess with very weak historical basis)
I know this may sound weird, but to me it is very relaxing to walk in the silent graveyeards and cemetaries, and wonder the beautiful different crosses, stones, statues, flowers, other plantings, and just to enjoy the total silence.
Often cemetaries are the most beatiful "parks" of many cities (Pere Lachaise in Paris for example, where you can see the graves of many celebrities and famous old time poets, writers, thinkers like Voltaire too).
This one is a protestant cemetary. There are lots of cats in the neighbourhood; they are said to be the "Guardians of the departed". There is a donation box for donations to cover the costs of taking care of and feeding the cats. A lady is there daily to feed the cats.