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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Details

Founded: 340 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Kevin Mahady (4 months ago)
The art and decor here is incredible! The Santa Maria Hotel is nearby in Trastevere and is the only place I stay when in Rome.
John Allen (5 months ago)
Beautiful church, inside and out. The mosaics in the apse above the altar are especially good. (Make sure to pay to have the lights turned on so you can see them clearly.) Despite being in several different styles and media, the artwork and decorations blend together well.
JED (6 months ago)
Not only impressive from the outside, but the inside is a sanctuary. I was there when they had a Sunday service in and if I could have understood Italian, probably would have stayed. Worth the visit.
c m (7 months ago)
Amazing church with amazing art. Also went to mass. This is a community loved parish. Packed and with singing. So nice. In the heart of the lovely welcoming neighborhood of Trastevere
Mor Buchris (7 months ago)
The vibe in this place is very interesting. It's not like in other churches I have been too (I am not Christian so I don't go a lot). During my visit a nun went to the piano and started playing on it which was very special.
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