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.
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.
This huge Baroque church is the headquarters of the Jesuits and has served as the model for Jesuit churches everywhere and contains the tomb of St. Ignatius, the order's founder.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Said to be Rome's only Gothic church, this 13th-century basilica was built over a temple to Minerva. It contains many art treasures and the venerated tomb of St. Catherine of Siena.
Sant'Andrea al Quirinale
Sant'Andrea al Quirinale is a splendid elliptical Baroque church designed by Bernini in 1658.
San Luigi dei Francesi
Dedicated to King Louis of France, this Renaissance church is the heart of the Rome's French community. It has a fine facade and three outstanding paintings by Caravaggio.
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.