ancient churches of Rome
antiche di Roma
les églises anciennes de Rome
mundi, world capital of history, art and christianity. The
proud capital of the roman empire has been the centre of artistic
development since antiquity and played a key role in the history
of christian art. No other city preserves such an abundance of christian
art; from the first paintings in the underground catacombs around
the town, to the ancient basilicas and mosaic decorations, to the
endless art collections of the town museums and the great baroque
facades and copulas of the city centre. The big list of ancient
churches from the early-christian and medieval periods, spanning
1000 years of history and scattered all over the city centre and
beyond, is particularly stunning. The visitor will be surprised
to find the oldest columned basilicas, colourful mosaics, ancient
rotundas, romanesque campaniles and decorated cloisters in every
quarter of the town. The exploration of the churches of Rome is
a lengthy and wonderful journey, as well as a great asset in the
understanding of art history in general.
The Major Basilicas
The Ancient Rotundas
Cloisters and the Cosmates
The art treasures of Rome in general and the ancient
churches in particular present a wide variety of constructions and
decorations. Going back into time, christian art in Rome develops
only very slowly during the first centuries after Christ, still
dominated by the culture of the roman empire. The first christian
paintings are found in the 2nd century A.C. in the catacombs, the
underground burial chambers outside of the city used by the early
christians. The big development starts after the Constantine edict
(313) proclaiming religious toleration, with the first public churches
being built on the places where the apostles and early martyrs had
been murdered. The great early-christian basilicas, constructed
in the classical hall-layout using roman columns and decorations,
are a truly unique collection of early church architecture, starting
from the 4th century A.C. and continued all the way throughout the
middle ages. A couple of smaller rotundas on circular ground plan
from this period present a mixed influence from the holy sanctuary
of Christ in Jerusalem and the roman mausoleums. The mosaic decorations
from the early medieval period found in several churches represent
a side-chapter of the Byzantine art
history (see also Ravenna). Many more
roman churches conserve christian sarcophages and sculptures or
are internally decorated by medieval frescos. Although the high
middle ages mark a relatively poor and quiet time in Rome, the elevated
campaniles mostly from the 12th century give the city a clear romanesque
face. From the same period dates the remarkable artwork of the Cosmates,
artists who decorated the cloisters, interiors and church floors
of Rome with colourful marbles. Although after the middle ages most
churches have been partially or entirely altered, especially during
the prosperous Renaissance and Baroque periods, a great deal is
still preserved from the ancient times. On this page an overview
is presented of the over 70 ancient churches of Rome, spanning 1000
years of history (roughly from the 3rd to the 13th centuries), categorized
in several groups and ranked by stars (up to two). For each church,
the ancient parts are listed (with the century of construction between
brackets). Finally some interesting museums are mentioned.
The city of
The Major Basilicas
Basilica (5th), campanile (14th), mosaics (5th and 13th), floor
Parts of basilica (4th), mosaics (4th/5th and 13th), frescos (12th),
easter candle (12th), ciborium (13th), cloisters (13th).
Basilica (6th and 8th), campanile (13th), atrium (12th/13th), mosaic
(6th), ambon, cathedra, ciborium and floor (12th/13th), cloisters
Basilica (7th), mosaics (7th), catacombs.
Basilica (5th), atrium, doors (5th), mosaics (5th), ambon (9th),
Basilica (12th), campanile (12th), mosaics (12th and 13th), floor,
Basilica (12th), lower church (4th), atrium, mosaics (7th and 12th),
frescos (5th to 11th), ambon, floor, candle and ciborium (12th).
Basilica (9th and 12th), crypt, campanile (9th), floor, courtyards,
cloisters (13th), S.Barbara chapel (9th), S.Sylvestro chapel (13th),
frescos (9th to 13th).
The Ancient Rotundas
Rotunda (5th), chapels, mosaics (5th and 7th).
Rotunda (5th), arch (9th and 12th), mosaic (7th), cathedra (6th/7th).
Rotunda (4th), mosaics (4th).
The Great Mosaics
Basilica (9th), crypt, S.Zeno chapel (9th), campanile (11th), portal,
mosaics (9th), frescos (12th).
Campanile (12th/13th), portal (4th and 11th/12th), mosaic (4th),
Apse (6th), mosaic (6th), lower church.
S.MARIA-IN-DOMNICA (-DELLA-NAVICELLA) *
Basilica (9th), mosaics (9th).
Basilica, campanile (12th), mosaics (9th), floor.
Campanile (12th), atrium (12th), mosaic (9th), frescos (13th), ciborium
(13th), fragments lower church.
Mosaics (13th), floor, cloisters (13th), sculptures. Capella Sancta
Sanctorum (13th). Parts of the triclinium mosaic (9th).
S.FRANCESCA-ROMANA (S.MARIA-NOVA) *
Campanile (12th/13th), mosaic (12th).
Basilica (5th), mosaic (7th).
Apse, mosaic (6th).
For more great mosaics see also all the churches
above (the Major Basilicas and the
Basilica (8th), campanile (12th), atrium, portal (11th), mosaic
(8th), pulpits, cathedra (13th), ciborium (13th) and floor.
Basilica (7th), campanile (12th), atrium, fresco (13th), ciborium
(13th), altar (11th).
Basilica (5th and 8th), campanile (14th), atrium, frescos (12th).
Basilica (12th), portal (13th), frescos (7th to 12th), scola cantorum.
Basilica (4th/5th), frescos (9th to 12th), cathedra (13th), grave.
Basilica (6th), pulpits (12th/13th), graves (13th), altar, floor.
Basilica, campanile, lions, relief.
Basilica (12th), campanile (12th), floor (13th), frescos lower church
(8th to 11th).
Basilica (9th), remnants (4th/5th).
Basilica (6th), atrium, chapel, frescos (6th to 9th).
Basilica (8th and 12th).
Basilica (5th), ciborium (12th).
Basilica (9th), campanile (12th).
Parts of basilica (4th), sarcophages (4th), catacombs (3rd).
Parts of basilica (6th).
SS.NEREO-E-ACHILLEO (CATACOMBE DI DOMITILLA)
Parts of basilica (4th), catacombs (2nd to 4th), frescos.
Campanile (12th), facade (5th), atrium (12th), portal, apse (12th),
mosaics (5th), floor, lower church, frescos (4th to 12th).
Campanile (12th), floor.
Campanile (12th), atrium (12th).
Campanile (12th), mosaic.
MADONNA-DEL-DIVINO-AMORE (S.CECILIA-IN- CAMPOMARZIO)
Campanile (12th), apse (12th).
Campanile (12th), lower church, frescos.
Campanile (13th), apse.
Parts of basilica, campanile.
Basilica, campanile (12th).
Parts of campanile (11th).
For more romanesque campaniles see also: S.Lorenzo-fl-M,
S.Maria-in-Trastevere, S.Prassede, S.Pudenziana, S.Marco, S.Cecilia,
S.Francesca-R, S.Maria-in-Cosmedin, S.Giorgio-in-Velabro, S.Giovanni-a-PL,
S.Bartolomeo, S.Crisogono, S.Stefano-del-C (above) and S.Alessio,
Cloisters and the Cosmates
Crypt, campanile (13th), portal, frescos (13th), floor (13th), cloisters.
Campanile, atrium (12th), cloisters (12th /13th).
Apse, mosaics (8th/9th), floor (13th), altar (13th), chancel (13th),
SS.VINCENZO-E-ANASTASIO (ABBAZIA TRE FONTANE) *
Nave and choir (13th), atrium, porch, oratorium (8th), frescos (9th),
For more cloisters see also: S.Paolo-fl-M,
S.Lorenzo-fl-M, S.Sabina, SS.Quattro-Coronati (under the
Major Basilicas above) and S.Giovanni-in-Laterano (above).
For more floors and artwork of the cosmates see
additionally: S.Maria-Maggiore, S.Clemente, S.Marco, S.Maria-in-Cosmedin,
S.Giorgio-in-Velabro, S.Saba, S.Maria-in-Aracoeli, S.Balbina, S.Crisogono,
SS.Giovanni-e-Paolo, S.Croce, S.Agata (above).
Scavi (4th), mosaic (3rd), frescos, sarcophages.
Chapel columns (4th), atrium lions.
Atrium (5th), apse (5th).
Apse, fresco (11h).
Apse (13th), lower church (5th), frescos.
Chapel (11th), frescos.
Huge collection of christian art, note the early sarcophages and
statues in the Pio Cristiano museum wing.
Medieval mosaics and sculptures.
PALAZZO MASSIMO ALLE TERME
Sculptures and statues.
MUSEO NAZIONALE DELL'ALTO MEDIOEVO
Sculptures and objects.
Sculptures and reliefs.
MUSEO PALAZZO VENEZIA
Website of the Vatican
with virtual tours of the basilicas of S.Maria-Maggiore,
Pictures: Eduard, 2007-2008. For any comments
or additions feel free to contact me.