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Rome churches and basilicas
Within the Aurelian Walls – which define the ancient kernel of Rome – more than 200 churches are to be found and 19 basilicas, out of which 3 are patriarchal: St Peter's Basilica in Vatican, St John in Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano), Santa Maria Maggiore. All the greatest artists who followed one another through different ages have contributed to their realization.
As well outside the Aurelian Walls are numerous churches and a few basilicas, of which one is patriarchal (Saint Paul outside the walls). Many churches, although showing “recent” epochs garments (mainly baroque, but also neo-classical etc.),
are actually from the early centuries, when the first faithful, in order to escape from the merciless persecutions – like that enacted by Emperor Diocletian –, would meet in homes called “domus ecclesiae”, hidden in the regular urban tissue.
These buildings would often become the core of the Palaeo-Christian and Medieval churches, themselves again restored, modified or even reconstructed in later ages.
Here below, churches have been classified as:
- Great basilicas (Patriarchal or not)
- Palaeo-Christian and Medieval churches
- Renaissance churches
- Baroque churches
- Churches of the ages ‘700-‘800.
It is necessary to keep in mind, though, that different artists and architects’ interventions have often been overlapped, modifying, according to the taste of the time, what had been done by their predecessors.
The Great Roman Basilicas
With Constantine’s victory on his rival Massenzio's troops (312 A.D.), Christianity was made legal by the new Emperor who had embraced the faith in Jesus.
From Constantine’s epoch are Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, Saint John in Lateran and Saint Cross in Jerusalem.
In 1300 pope Boniface VIII (1249-1303) established the first jubilee (initially celebrated every 100 years, then every 50 and today every 25 years)
promising the complete remission of the sins for the pilgrims who would have gone to visit and pay homage to the Basilicas of Saint Peter and Saint Paul,
where the clothes of the two martyrs were kept. Later on Saint John in Lateran and Santa Maria Maggiore were added to these two Jubilee (or Patriarchal) Basilicas. Today to obtain the plenary indulgence it’s sufficient to visit one of the four.
- Many Churches are open only on specific days and times. Therefore it’s better to inquire beforehand and maybe confirm timetables on the phone.
- It is prohibited to enter Churches with shoulders uncovered, shorts or mini skirt. A good idea is to keep long trousers or a sarong in your rucksack.