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Whether you’re taking a spiritual pilgrimage or simply sightseeing, visiting the four major churches of Rome is a must. This guide is to share with you the four major basilicas of Rome and what you can see at each church when you visit!
The beautiful churches of Rome demonstrate Rome’s rich religious history, beautiful art, and architecture. This guide is to share with you the top churches in Rome and what you can see when you visit. There are so many more churches throughout Rome, but in this guide, we want to focus on the four major churches of Rome as they are the most popular churches to visit.
Top Four Churches to Visit in Rome
Visiting the Top Churches in Rome: Practical Information
The top churches in Rome include Saint Peter’s Basilica, Saint John Lateran, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and Saint Mary Major. Each of these churches has historical significance in Rome and feature stunning art and architecture and some of the holiest relics in the world. Each of these churches in Rome is still very much a church, so please be respectful of others during your visit and please wear church appropriate attire. In Europe, church appropriate attire includes covered shoulders and no short bottoms for both men and women. If you’re not dressed appropriately, you might not be allowed in to visit!
Saint Peter’s Basilica
Saint Peter’s Basilica, the most famous of the four, is the Basilica of the Pope. Containing the works of Michelangelo and Bernini, Saint Peter’s Basilica is the most renowned work of Italian Renaissance Architecture. Tradition holds that Saint Peter, the first pope, is buried under the high altar of the basilica.
If you’re going to visit, definitely plan ahead! Visiting the Vatican and Basilica are one of the top destinations for tourists. You need a ticket for visiting the Vatican since it is a museum. However, entrance to Saint Peter’s is free and based on the line. We recommend visiting the Basilica first, and then the Vatican.
Saint Peter’s Basilica contains Michelangelo’s famous Pieta. Located to the right of the entrance, this beautiful sculpture is memorizing to look upon. It’s truly amazing how Michelangelo was able to create such humanlike features in a sculpture.
People also traditionally line up to touch and the foot of the statue of Saint Peter, asking for him to be merciful at the gates of heaven.
Bernini’s Baroque Baldachin in Saint Peter’s Basilica towers over the high alter. This piece combines sculpture and architecture. You will notice that the base of the columns contained the Barberini family coast of arms, with three bees. These bees symbolize hard work and dedication, which is a recurring symbol throughout Rome.
Santa Maria Maggiore
The present church was built under the pope in the 5th century. It was one of the first churches to be built in honor of the Virgin Mary after the Council of Ephesus proclaimed Mary to be the Mother of God. The church was designed in the classical style, making it represent old Imperial Rome. It contains its original mosaics! Here, you can see the relic of the Holy Manger below the high altar.
Saint John Lateran
Saint John Lateran is the oldest and highest ranking papal basilicas in Rome. The basilica was dedicated in 324 AD; however, it was damaged by fires and reconstructed over time. The inside features statues of the 12 apostles and baroque and neoclassical artistry. You can also visit the baptistry and the Holy Stairs. These stairs are said to be the staircase Jesus walked upon during His Passion.
Saint Paul Outside the Walls
During the time of Saint Paul’s death, people were not able to be buried within the walls of Rome, so Saint Paul was buried outside of the city limits, giving rise to the construction of this church. Here, you can see the resting place of Saint Paul below the high altar.
If you visit this church, you will have to travel by metro outside of the city center. Visit the visitor’s website for more details.