They say that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and by discovering the Churches, and particularly the main Cathedrals of the Eternal City, you can really see this incredible journey through the millenniums, of which the Christianity has been such an important part.
Take advantage of a holiday in this place unique in the world and don’t forget to explore the historic center in a comfy way, for example following segway tours in Rome; the team of local experts provided these tips about the four main cathedrals.
Saint Peter’s Basilica and its masterpieces
It took many artists, architects, and engineers with apprentices and workers for sixty generations to build the magnificent Basilica that we see today.
Bramante did the original project, and Maderno designed the façade during the 17th century.
Michelangelo which not only made the project of the dome and realized the famous paintings in the nearby Sistina’s Chapel, but also created one of the most famous pieces of art inside Saint Peter’s Basilica: the Pietà, a marble sculpture representing Christ after his death lying on his mother’s legs. Then Bernini which designed and built the square and the portico with the four-row colonnade that represents the opened arms of the Church.
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The Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major, where the miracle still happens
Two steps away from Roma Termini there is a treasure of history, art, and faith: the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the only one that keeps its original structure of the 5th century. The mosaic, the incredible marble pavement, and the coffered ceiling are truly impressive for both pilgrims and visitors searching for unique art.
According to the tradition, in the AD 358, the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to the Patrician John and his wife as well as to the Pope Liberius asking for a church dedicated to her on the Esquilino. The next day, the 5th of August, they found the designated area for the Church covered by the snow. And this miracle is still celebrated every year with a cascade of white petals (if you are in Rome, don’t miss it!).
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The Basilica of Saint John Lateran: the glory and the abandon
Since its construction, during the 4th century, this Basilica has been the residence of the Popes until the departure for Avignon in the 14th century. When the Pope came back to Rome, after seventy years, the entire area was abandoned and unsafe, so he decided to move his residence permanently to the more secure Vatican area.
Today, of the original structure, which was similar to the present one, only the apsis is left among the few remains of the Constantin era in an archaeological area including old buildings, courtyards and the barracks of the Emperor’s Equites Singulares, that has been found in the basements of the Basilica.
I recommend visiting the Constantinian Baptistery (also called Saint John “in fonte”) which is on the back of the Basilica and was originally built no later than the 5th century.
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Saint Paul’s Basilica: from the origin of the Christian religion to nowadays
Built on the tomb of Paul the Apostle, martyred in Rome between the AD 65 and 67, the Basilica became very important during the Medieval period, with Saint Peter’s Church, for the religious life of the city.
The original Constantinian structure of the 4th century was enhanced and embellished during centuries until the fire destroyed it on the night of 15 July 1823. It was then reconstructed identically by using the surviving element, with the following addition of a beautiful portico and of a large window under the Papal Altar that shows the Apostle’s Tomb to visitors.