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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.

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Sacred Sites and Religious Attractions in Rome

  • Arch of Constantine
    This triumphal arch is an important monument of religious history: it celebrates Constantine's victory at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, which led to his Christian conversion.
  • Arch of Titus
    Located near the entrance to the imperial Forum, this arch contains a relief depicting the destruction and looting of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD.
  • Capitoline Hill and Museums
    The most sacred of the seven hills in Rome, Capitoline Hill once hosted a great temple. Today it is home to the Capitoline Museum, with temple ruins and classical sculptures.
  • Early Christian Catacombs
  • Colosseum
    The magnificent Roman Colosseum has long been considered sacred because of its legendary association with early Christian martyrs.
  • Domine Quo Vadis
    This small chapel on the Appian Way marks the spot where St. Peter, fleeing persecution, saw the risen Christ and asked, Domine quo vadis? ("Lord, where are you going?").
  • Great Synagogue
    This large Orthodox synagogue dates from 1904 and includes an excellent Jewish museum.
  • Il Gesù
    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.
  • San Giovanni in Fonte (Lateran Baptistery)
    Also known as the Lateran Baptistery, this octagonal structure is the oldest baptistery in the world, built by Constantine in 315 AD.
  • 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.
  • Pantheon
    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 Clemente
    This lovely 12th-century basilica stands over two previous sacred buildings: a church built in 392 and a 2nd-century Mithraic cave temple.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • San Pietro in Vincoli
    A church housing the venerated chains that held St. Peter while he was imprisoned in Rome before being freed by an angel.
  • Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura
    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.
  • Sant'Andrea al Quirinale
    Sant'Andrea al Quirinale is a splendid elliptical Baroque church designed by Bernini in 1658.
  • Sant'Andrea della Valle
    Founded by the Duchess of Amalfi, Sant'Andrea della Valle is a Baroque church with notable artistic treasures, opulence, and dramatic grandeur.
  • Sant'Ivo
    Designed by Borromini, this impressive Baroque church is dedicated to St. Yves of Britanny, a lawyer who became a monk and fought for justice.
  • 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.
  • Santa Costanza
    This little round church was built c.360 AD to house the tombs of Constantine's daughter and sister. Its ceilings are covered in some of the earliest Christian mosaics in the world.
  • 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 Maria degli Angeli
    This interesting basilica incorporates the remains of the extensive Baths of Diocletian. Inside are works of medieval and modern art and an astronomical gnomon.
  • Santa Maria del Popolo
    A 15th-century church filled with Renaissance and Baroque art by masters such as Raphael, Caravaggio, and Bernini.
  • 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.
  • Santa Maria in Trastevere
    This church is held to be the first place of Christian worship in Rome, built where a fountain of oil sprung up on the day of Christ's birth. Inside are many excellent mosaics.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Santa Prassede
    A hidden gem near Santa Maria Maggiore, this 9th-century basilica has glorious Byzantine mosaics. Also here is a piece of the scourging column of Christ and other relics.
  • Santa Sabina
    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.
  • 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.
  • Santo Stefano Rotondo
    Dedicated to St. Stephen, the first martyr, this is one of the largest and oldest round churches in existence. Dating from the 5th century, it reflects local and foreign influences.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Temple of Castor and Pollux
    This ancient Roman temple was founded in 484 BC but rebuilt in 6 AD. Today the podium, three columns and an architrave stand in the Imperial Forum.
  • 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.
  • Temple of Vespasian
    Three Corinthian columns remain of this temple at the west end of the Roman Forum. It was built c.80-85 AD to the deified emperors Vespasian (d. 79) and Titus (d. 81).