Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Assisi

Santa Maria sopra Minerva, like the church of the same name in Rome, is a church dedicated to Mary built over a Roman temple to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. Parts of the Roman temple, which dates from the time of Augustus (63 BC-AD 14), still remain.


History of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

The Temple of Minerva was built in the 1st century BC by the quatorvirates Gneus Cesius and Titus Cesius Priscus at their own expense. In Roman times, the piazza in front of the temple was the main city center, and some early Christian martyrs were likely executed here.

By the late 4th and 5th centuries, paganism was basically outlawed and the Temple of Minerva was abandoned. Fortunately, however, it was not destroyed.

Sometime in the late sixth century, Benedictine monks restored the temple and made use of it. The divided the interior into two floors, creating living rooms in the upper part and the church of San Donato in the lower part.

In the 13th century, the monks leased the temple to the newly-formed Comune of Assisi, which made the temple its headquarters from 1215 to 1270. The Temple of Minerva/San Donato was used as the municipal jail until the 15th century.

In 1456, the temple returned to sacred use and the church of San Donato was reopened. In the meantime, the Italian Renaissance inspired a newfound appreciation for classical art and architecture. In the years 1527-1530, the magistrates of Assisi ordered restoration projects to be undertaken.

Then, in 1539, Pope Paolo III, making a visit to Assisi, ordered the Temple of Minerva to be completely restored and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, queen of true wisdom. The temple then took the name of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (St. Mary over Minerva).

In 1613, the bishop of Assisi donated Santa Maria sopra Minerva to the friars of the Third Regular Order of St. Francis, who conducted regular services and undertook several restorations with the help of local architect Giacomo Giorgetti.

What to See at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

The six splendid Corinthian columns and the entire Roman façade are still intact after over 2,000 years. The lateral walls are original too, but only visible from the outside.

The expectations raised by the perfect classical facade are not met by the interior, with its thorough baroque assault in the 17th century.

Quick Facts on Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Site Information
Names:Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Categories:churches; temples
Styles:Classical Greece
Dedication: Minerva
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:43.071278° N, 12.614644° E
Address:Assisi, Italy
Lodging:View hotels near Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. Fodor's Umbria
  2. Temple of Minerva -
  3. The "Temple of Minerva" - Bill Thayer

More Information

© Pedro Prats
© Francesco Gasparetti
© Paolo Costa
© Pedro Prats
© Bill Thayer

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