Rome, Italy

Area Sacra dell'Argentina, with the foundations of ancient temples, in the heart of Rome. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

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.
The magnificent Roman Colosseum has long been considered sacred because of its legendary association with early Christian martyrs.
San Lorenzo fuori le Mura
This major pilgrimage basilica features a columned portico, 6th-century mosaic, catacombs, and lovely 12th-century cloister. It is dedicated to Lawrence, who was martyred by roasting on a gridiron.
Santi Cosma e Damiano
This ancient church in the Imperial Forum contains ruins of a Roman temple (overlooked through a glass wall in the back) and some wonderful early Christian mosaics in the apse.
San Clemente
This lovely 12th-century basilica stands over two previous sacred buildings: a church built in 392 and a 2nd-century Mithraic cave temple.
Mamertine Prison
Located on the Capitoline Hill above the Forum, this ancient prison is where St. Peter and Paul are said to have been held before their execution in Rome.
Santa Maria Maggiore
Built on the site of a miraculous snowfall, this major basilica dates from 420 AD. The huge church is lined with Byzantine mosaics and contains many important relics.
Sant'Agnese in Agone
Dedicated to a young woman martyred in 303 AD, this church was built by Constantine and rebuilt in the 7th century. It has a Byzantine apse mosaic and crowd-free catacombs.
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.
Sistine Chapel
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.