Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

Rome, Italy

The Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem or Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome. According to tradition, the basilica was consecrated circa 325 to house the relics of the Passion of Jesus Christ. The relics were brought to Rome from the Holy Land by Empress St. Helena, mother of Roman Emperor Constantine I. At that time, the Basilica's floor was covered with soil from Jerusalem, thus acquiring the title in Hierusalem.

After falling into neglect, the Pope Lucius II (1144-1145) restored the Basilica. It assumed a Romanesque appearance, with a nave, two aisles, belfry, and porch.

The Basilica was also modified in the 16th century, but it assumed its current Baroque appearance under Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58), who had been its titular prior to his elevation to the Papacy. New streets were also opened to connect the Basilica to two other Roman major basilicas, namely, San Giovanni in Laterano and Santa Maria Maggiore. The façade of the Basilica, which was designed by Pietro Passalacqua and Domenico Gregorini, shares the typical late Roman Baroque style of these other basilicas.

The relics were once in the ancient St. Helena's Chapel, which is partly subterranean. Here the founder of the Basilica had some soil from Calvary dispersed. In the vault is a mosaic designed by Melozzo da Forlì before 1485 depicting Jesus Blessing, Histories of the Cross, and various saints. The altar has a huge statue of St. Helena, which was obtained from an ancient statue of the pagan goddess Juno discovered at Ostia.

The apse of the Basilica includes frescoes telling the Legends of the True Cross, attributed to Melozzo, Antoniazzo Romano, and Marco Palmezzano. The Museum of the Basilica houses a mosaic icon from the 14th century which, according to the legend, Pope Gregory I had made after a vision of Christ. Notable also is the tomb of Cardinal Francisco de los Ángeles Quiñones sculpted by Jacopo Sansovino in 1536.

Peter Paul Rubens, who had arrived in Rome by way of Mantua in 1601, was commissioned by Archduke Albert of Austria to paint an altarpiece with three panels for the Chapel of St. Helena. Two of these paintings, St. Helena with the True Cross and The Mocking of Christ, are now in Grasse, France. The third, The Elevation of the Cross, was lost. Before his marriage, the Archduke had been made a cardinal in the Basilica.

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Founded: c. 325 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Konstantin Ulanov (3 years ago)
Beautiful church but not worth to visit it specifically and come to this area of Rome. It is nice inside but I found nothing special and there are much more nicer churches in Rome
Alexandros thepilot (3 years ago)
Spectacular Church must visit to see part of the Holly cross, one nail of the Holly cross and more .. but the most respectful is to visit the monument of a very special little child that at very young age was in spiritual awakening writhing letters to Jesus and Knowing that she will join him at the age of 7. Antonietta Meo she is a saint (Nennolina) and you feel it at your visit...
Carlos Morado (3 years ago)
It's a beautiful Basilica. It has the reliques of the holy cross and the passion of christ. Its à good place to pray and it's beautiful also. @cmoradolc
Jiana Sayegh (3 years ago)
Inside the splendid basilica, definitely worth visiting is the Chapel of the Relics, on the left. Keep the fragments of the cross (hence the name of the church) and one of the nails used in the crucifixion. Brought to Rome by Sant'Elena. In addition to these, fragments of the grotto of the Nativity and of the Holy Sepulcher, the phalanx of the finger of St. Thomas and two thorns coming from the crown of Jesus. And, if that were not enough, there is also the table with the inscription INRI placed above the cross . In short, for those who have faith, a lot of stuff.
Cal HappyCamper (3 years ago)
What is there to dislike? Best time to come is early in the day. Make sure you've got a map to navigate out.
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The Church of the Holy Cross

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The exact age of the Church of the Holy Cross is unknown, but it was built to serve as the monastery church of the Rauma Franciscan Friary. The monastery had been established in the early 15th century and a wooden church was built on this location around the year 1420.

The Church of the Holy Cross served the monastery until 1538, when it was abandoned for a hundred years as the Franciscan friary was disbanded in the Swedish Reformation. The church was re-established as a Lutheran church in 1640, when the nearby Church of the Holy Trinity was destroyed by fire.

The choir of the two-aisle grey granite church features medieval murals and frescoes. The white steeple of the church was built in 1816 and has served as a landmark for seafarers.