Rome, the "Eternal City," has been a sacred place and internationally important city since ancient times. Rome's history extends nearly 2,800 years, during which time it has been the seat of the Roman Kingdom, the Roman Republic, the Roman Empire, the Papal States, the Kingdom of Italy and the Italian Republic. The first known temple in Rome was built around 575 BC. A Jewish community was established in Rome in 161 BC and remains active today. Christians arrived in the 1st century AD, and Rome has been the center of Catholic Christianity ever since. Rome's abundance of ancient temples, synagogues, churches and shrines make it one of the best cities to explore the holy places of a variety of religious traditions.
This magnificent ancient temple was built by Emperor Hadrian in 125 AD and converted into a church in 609. It is the oldest intact ancient building in Rome.
Temple of Saturn
The focus of the Saturnalia festival, the Temple of Saturn in the Forum was erected in 497 BC and rebuilt in 380 AD.
Santa Sabina is Rome's best surviving example of an early Christian church. It dates from 422, including its carved wooden doors with biblical scenes.
San Paolo fuori le Mura
This spectacular basilica and Benedictine monastery shelters the bones of the Apostle Paul. Its beautiful cloisters display ancient artifacts discovered nearby.
Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Best known for the "Mouth of Truth" in the porch, this is one of the most interesting churches in Rome, with important medieval art and an atmosphere of antiquity.
San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran)
Dedicated to both John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, St. John Lateran is the cathedral of Rome and one of its four major basilicas. It includes a fine 13th-century cloister.
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Too often overlooked by non-pilgrims, this basilica near St. John Lateran includes the private chapel of St. Helen (Constantine's mother) and displays impressive relics from the Holy Land.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
This church and active convent was built in the 9th century over the house of St. Cecilia, a 3rd-century martyr. It has a Byzantine apse mosaic upstairs and Roman excavations below.
St. Peter's Basilica
For Roman Catholics, St. Peter's is the most sacred site after the Holy Land. It centers around the tomb of St. Peter the Apostle and is one of the largest churches in the world.
This world-famous chapel painted by Michelangelo is still used for papal elections. Explore a complete photo gallery of its art as part of our article on the Sistine Chapel.