Santa Maria in Trastevere

Rome, Italy

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches of Rome. The basic floor plan and wall structure of the church date back to the 340s, and much of the structure to 1140-43. The first sanctuary was built in 221 and 227 by Pope Callixtus I and later completed by Pope Julius I. 

The inscription on the episcopal throne states that this is the first church in Rome dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus, although some claim that privilege belongs to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. A Christian house-church was founded here about 220 by Pope Saint Callixtus I (217-222) on the site of the Taberna meritoria, a refuge for retired soldiers. The area was made available for Christian use by Emperor Alexander Severus when he settled a dispute between the Christians and tavern-keepers.

The church underwent two restorations in the fifth and eighth centuries and in 1140-43 it was re-erected on its old foundations under Pope Innocent II. Innocent II razed the church along with the recently completed tomb of the Antipope Anacletus II, his former rival. Innocent II arranged for his own burial on the spot formerly occupied by the tomb.

The present nave preserves its original (pre-12th century) basilica plan and stands on the earlier foundations. The 22 granite columns with Ionic and Corinthian capitals that separate the nave from the aisles came from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, as did the lintel of the entrance door. Inside the church are a number of late 13th-century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini on the subject of the Life of the Virgin (1291) centering on a 'Coronation of the Virgin' in the apse. Domenichino's octagonal ceiling painting, Assumption of the Virgin (1617) fits in the coffered ceiling setting that he designed.

The Romanesque campanile is from the 12th century. Near the top, a niche protects a mosaic of the Madonna and Child. The mosaics on the façade are believed to be from the 12th century. They depict the Madonna enthroned and suckling the Child, flanked by 10 women holding lamps. This image on the façade showing Mary nursing Jesus is an early example of a popular late-medieval and renaissance type of image of the Virgin. The motif itself originated much earlier, with significant 7th century Coptic examples at Wadi Natrun in Egypt.

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Founded: 340 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ferraro N (33 days ago)
Our Lady in Trastevere, one of the oldest Basilicas in Rome. It hosts beautiful mosaics from the 13th century. The church has a romanesque campanile and it is erected in an large square named after the Basilica, Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. The interiors of the church feature two main naves separated by granite columns.
Father Kenny Ang (5 months ago)
This is, in my opinion, aside from St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the most beautiful churches in Rome. It’s certainly one of the oldest. The square in front of this Basilica just feels welcoming. The mosaics inside the basilica are breathtaking, especially the ones in the apse depicting Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary. A must-visit!
Aga Wu (5 months ago)
one of the most beautiful churches in Rome, must see!
Caleb Ajayi (6 months ago)
Not religious at all. But the building is nice. Not a must see. But if you're around you can pop in.
Ben Baker (6 months ago)
Beautiful church that seems more unique than alot of the other churches in Rome. The golden walls and murals are stunning. Well worth the visit if you are in the area.
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