How do churches become basilicas?

The churches and basilicas of Rome

There are over 1,000 churches to visit in the Eternal City of Rome. That is of course shaped by the Vatican. A visit to the four beautiful papal basilicas, in old Roman-Baroque architecture that will enchant you, should not be missed during your stay in Rome.

When it comes to churches, a distinction is made between Gothic churches, Renaissance churches, Baroque churches, pilgrim churches and modern churches.

Most churches and basilicas have an impressive interior

Originally, basilicas meant large, imposing, magnificent buildings. There you represented, there were court sessions and there you acted like in a market hall. Christianity took its place in the basilicas only later.

There are actually six papal basilicas, two of which are in Assisi. The four Roman basilicas are also called Basilicae Majores - formerly the Patriarchal Basilica (now the Papal Basilica). The highest-ranking former patriarchal basilica is the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterno, the Lateran basilica. The popes used to reside here and it therefore bears the name 'Mother of the Church'. It was built by Emperor Constantine I in the 4th century.

Entrance to the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri

The largest basilica in Rome, however, is the Vatican Basilica of Saint Peter, St. Peter's Cathedral, with the impressive, baroque facade and the huge dome. The Basilica of St. Peter is still one of the largest churches in the world. The second largest of the four papal basilicas in Rome is the Basilica of San Paolo Fuori le Mura, also known as 'Saint Paul Outside the Walls'. According to a legend, it is said to have been built over the tomb of the apostle Paul.

The fourth papal basilica is the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Of all four patriarchal basilicas, it is the only one that has traces of early Christianity. Santa Maria Maggiore is located on the Esquiline hill. According to another legend, the Virgin Mary expressed the desire to build the basilica in her honor on Esquiline Hill, in the dreams of Pope Liberius. And that night of August 4th, 352, it is said to have snowed.

Angel statues like these can be admired in all churches and basilicas

The seven pilgrimage churches include not only the four papal basilicas, which are worth seeing, but also the San Sebastiano fuori le mura, also known as San Sebastiano alle Catacombe. It was built over the grave of the martyr Sebastina and serves as a parish church. In another pilgrimage church, the Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, the remains of the cross of Christ are kept. The seventh pilgrimage church is the San Lorenzo fuori le mura. In it is the tomb of St. Lawrence and it is also a pilgrimage site for the 3rd Sunday of Lent.

Other churches in Rome that are recommended to visit are, among many other wonderful churches, the baroque church of Sant Agnese in Angone in Piazza Navona, the Renaissance church of Santa Maria del Popolo, built over the alleged tomb of Emperor Nero, and the nearby San Pietro in Vincoli of the Colosseum. There is the statue of Moses designed by Michelangelo.

The Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, on the Piazza della Repubblica - near the Termini train station - does not look as impressive from the outside as it does inside. It is worth a visit here, because there is a great exhibition here, including information about the meridian, the calculation of the Gregorian calendar and a sundial. The small, idyllic inner courtyard is also decorated with a pretty statue. Our tip: go in - it's worth it.

Tomb of Emilio de Cavalieri in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli

On the Capitol Hill, next to the Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II. And the Capitol Square, is the unadorned-looking Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. The bassilica is equipped with impressive wall and ceiling frescoes, 22 columns, the tombstone of Donatello, a tomb designed by Michelangelo and a statue of the baby Jesus, the Santo Bambino. It is considered the most valuable piece in the church and was carved from the olive wood of the garden of Gethsemane. Unfortunately the original was stolen in 1994 because it was beautifully decorated with precious stones.

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The following churches and basilicas should also be mentioned: the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini on the Piazza Barberini, the Church of Sant Urbano on the Via Appia Pignatelli, the Santa Maria sopra Minerva, the Church of Sant 'Agostino, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Sant 'Andrea al Quirinale, Santa Maria della Vittoria and don't forget, of course, the Pantheon.


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