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


4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ramin Moradi (3 years ago)
Relativity small and cozy church. The interior design is beautiful with a golden theme and detailed painting. Suited to rest and relax a bit after walking in Trastevere!
JUZER KAPADIA (3 years ago)
Trastevere, which literally translates as the area “across the Tiber,” is one of the city’s most attractive quarters: a maze of narrow, cobbled alleys. Once home to the city’s poor, the neighborhood has witnessed a proliferation of fashionable clubs, restaurants, and boutiques. At the heart of this charming quarter, overlooking an attractive traffic-free square, stands the Basilica of Santa Maria – probably the first official place of Christian worship in Rome. It was founded by Pope Callixtus I in the 3rd century, when Christianity was still a minority cult. According to legend, the church was built on the site where a fountain of oil had sprung up miraculously on the day that Christ was born. The basilica became the focus of devotion to the Virgin Mary and today is famous for its splendid mosaics. Both the Madonna and Christ are among the figures depicted in the facade mosaics (c. 12th century), while in the apse is a stylized 12th-century mosaic portraying the Coronation of the Virgin. Below it are a series of realistic mosaic scenes from the life of Mary by the 13th-century Roman artist Pietro Cavallini. The oldest image of the Virgin is a 7th-century icon, which depicts her as a Byzantine empress flanked by a guard of angels. Another image of the Virgin and Child can be seen near the top of the campanile
M in Paris (3 years ago)
This church is less famous and visited by tourists than the one in the city centre. However it is one of the more beautiful ones. It has huge golden ceilings, lots of statues and paintings. And because it is not in the city centre it os nicer to visit as you won't find hordes of tourists.
Ferraro N (3 years 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.
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