The Churches of Rome

The locations of all places are shown on my Google-Earth Map


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Santa Maria in Trastevere
Trastevere, 350, 1140, 19th cent.

Santa Maria in Trastevere may have originally been founded as early as the 3rd century by Pope Callixtus (217-22), but it was probably built around 350 AD under Pope Julius I (337-52). In this early period the church was known as titulus Callisti. It was partially destroyed by fire during the sack of Rome in 410, then repaired and rededicated to the Virgin Mary by Pope Celestine (422-32).

The church was totally rebuilt in the 12th century by Pope Innocent II (1130-43), using materials from the ancient Baths of Caracalla. Most of the present building dates from this era, with the portico and some other remodelling from the 19th century

The heavily restored mosaics in the apse vault and triumphal arch date from around 1140.

Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
Piazza Santa Cecilia, Trastever, 9th cent

The present church dedicated to the patroness of music (very convoluted hagiography) was built over the ruins of Cecilia's house by Pope Paschal I (817-24). The apse above the choir is decorated with a fine 9th-century mosaic on the theme of the Second Coming, which is quite similar to the one at Santa Prassede. It consists of seven standing figures. Recent restaurations.

The Interior

The restored apse mosaic (9th cent)

The left aisle near the entrance contains the sacristy, which serves as the entrance to the excavations beneath the church. Down here are the ruins of two ancient Roman houses, with mosaic pavements, Early Christian sarcophagi and a small museum. Eight cylindrical towers are believed to be part of a tannery, and there is a pagan household shrine with a relief of Minerva.

Chiesa di San Benedetto in Piscinula
near bridge to Tiber Island, Trastevere, 8th cent, but before 1069

The first building was apparently a chapel built in the eighth century , and certainly goes back to the eleventh century. The bell (the smallest in Rome), is dated 1069.

The restoration was completed in 2007 cleaning up the interior of the eighteenth-century deposits, restoring sight to the medieval walls and some very interesting frescoes, and enhancing the remains of the beautiful ornamentation of the Cosmati floor. The restoration has made it clear that separation of the church entrance was a later change. You now enter the chapel directly.

Tempietto di Bramante, San Pietro in Montorio
Monastery of San Pietro in Montorio, hillside aboveTrastevere, Bramante's masterpiece 1502

Bramante's Tempietto in the Spanish Convent of San Pietro di Montorio

With all the transformations of Renaissance and Baroque Rome that were to follow, it is hard to sense now what an apparition this building was in beginning of the 16th century. It is almost a piece of sculpture, for it has little architectonic use. The building absorbed much of Brunelleschi's style. Perfectly proportioned, it is composed of 16 slender Tuscan columns, a Doric entablature modeled after the ancient Theater of Marcellus, and a dome. According to an engraving in Sebastiano Serlio's Book III, Bramante planned to set it in within a colonnaded courtyard, but that plan was never executed.