Which are the most beautiful Catholic churches in Rome Italy? The churches in Rome our outstanding, and full of breathtaking artworks. We’ll be speaking of the most important basilica, the church of St Peter in Rome, as well as about the oldest church in Rome. For everyone who wants to know which is the most important and the biggest church in Rome, the answer is in this article! As a bonus beyond the 15 most important buildings, you’ll also find the church of Bones in Rome! Travel back in time, and discover some of the most perfect Renaissance (and not only) works of art in the many churches of Rome!
15 most beautiful catholic churches in Rome Italy
Do you want to know how many churches in Rome? There are over 900 catholic churches in Rome! This is the biggest number in the world of churches in one city, and there are plenty of famous churches in Rome you could explore! It should come as no surprise, that many of the churches we are listing will not appear in articles on other websites!
The reason is, that we have so many options, that we were able to pick our own favorites on the side of the churches in Rome with Caravaggio paintings, the Pantheon church in Rome, and also a bone church in Rome. Are you ready to explore some of the finest artworks of the city? You don’t have to be catholic to visit churches! I’m not Catholic either, but I spend a lot of time in Italian churches because I love the art, the spiritual energy, and the peacefulness of these places.
1. Basilica di San Pietro
The star of the most beautiful catholic churches in Rome Italy is Basilica San Pietro in Vatican City. Now, the church of St Peter in Rome is the main church of the Catholic Church and it’s also the biggest church in Rome. This church is a museum on its own with some of the world’s most important artworks. The St Peter Basilica is dedicated to the Apostle who was the first Bishop of Rome, and as such, the first Pope.
The original church was dedicated in 326, and it was commissioned by Emperor Constantine. Pope Nicholas V decided to build an entirely new church in 1452. The basilica was completed however in the late 18th century. To enter the basilica, you have to get through security, and then walk up to the main entrances. As you step inside, you’ll see on your right-hand side the famous statue Pieta made by Michelangelo in the 16th century.
If you are inside, make sure you dedicate time to walk around and admire all the frescoes, sculptures, and statues. See the breathtaking, giant dome by Michelangelo, and the Chapel of the Sacrament by Bernini and Borromini. Don’t miss the Papal altar over the tomb of St Peter, and the bronze baldacchin canopy created by Bernini. This is an incredible masterpiece of Baroque sculpture.
The Pantheon is the oldest church in Rome that is still standing, and it’s still in use. The Pantheon church in Rome was built around 120 AD, as a temple that honors Roma deities. It’s been converted to the Catholic church in the 7th century by Pope Boniface IV. It was consecrated to St Mary and the Martyrs. As you can imagine, in 2000 years the church went through a lot, and it was also cannibalized by other buildings over the centuries.
For example in the 17th century, Pope Urban VIII ordered the portico ceiling melted down to be used at Castel Sant’Angelo. Essential, otherwise the building remains the same, and its dome is still the largest dome in the world, that’s made of unreinforced concrete. Starting with the Renaissance, the Pantheon became the burial place of many important figures like the painter, Raphael, and the two kings of unified Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, and Umberto I.
3. Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere
One of the most beautiful catholic churches in Rome Italy is the Santa Maria in Trastevere. This is one of the oldest churches in Rome too, and it was recently refurbished and restored. Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere is in the famous authentic neighborhood of Trastevere, on the piazza that has the same name as the church. The building of the church started in 221 and it was completed in 340.
The whole church was rebuilt in the 12th century in Baroque style, and it features a Romanesque campanile from the 13th century. Some of the most beautiful features of Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere are the facade that’s decorated with mosaics, the altar, and the ceilings inside. The church features beautiful marble floors, beautiful coffered wood ceilings, and frescoes. This is one of those churches in Rome that has really strong spiritual energies too.
4. Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
One of the most famous churches in Rome, that’s also one that I’ve recently seen from the inside, is the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica. Santa Maria Maggiore is located just a few streets away from Termini train station, and it’s the only church in Rome that has held mass every single day since the 5th century. The original church was built in the 4th century, while additional work was made in the 13th century too.
Santa Maria Maggiore had the tallest campanile, which was built in 1377. In the 15th century, the gold coffered ceiling was made too by Giuliano da Sangallo, and the gold used, was the first gold coming from America. Later, in the 16th century, the two side chapels were added too. Capella Sistina on the right, and Capella Paolina on the left.
The 86-meter-long interior is among the finest and most majestic in Rome. Santa Maria Maggiore has three aisles separated by 36 marble and four granite columns. Rome’s oldest mosaics can also be found on the upper part of the walls. The geometric inlay of colored stone called Cosmatesque dates back to the 12th century, and it covers the floor of the church.
Address: Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome
5. San Giovanni in Laterano
If we would want to cover the real number of how many churches in Rome you could find, this article would rather be a complete book. Basilica di San Lorenzo in Laterano was the papal residence before the popes established their residence in the Vatican City, after the exile in Avignon. The work on the church started in 313, and was enlarged and almost completely rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries. Originally it was a Constantinian church, which was respected in the baroque new version by Borromini.
The wide facade with large statues was done around 1735 by Alessandro Galilei. Inside the church, the magnificent timber ceiling dates back to the 16th century, while the 13th-century cloister on the left aisle was made by Vassalletti, a Roman artist family. Inside and out, the church is magnificent, and it’s a must for anyone who’s looking for churches in Rome.
Address of San Giovanni in Laterano: Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano 4, Rome
6. Santa Maria del Popolo
If you’re looking for one of the most beautiful catholic churches in Rome Italy, then Santa Maria del Popolo is one you want to see! This is also the place to go if you’re looking for churches in Rome with Caravaggio paintings! Legend says that the church beyond the Pincio Gardens was enlarged from a chapel built to keep away the evil spirit of the emperor, Nero.
Santa Maria del Popolo is an Augustinian church with a Renaissance facade, dome, and campanile by the famous architect, Bramante, which he finished in 1505. Later, the church was restored by the mastermind, Bernini. When Martin Luther, the father of the Reformat church stayed in Rome between 1510-1511 he was still an Augustinian, and he lived in the order’s house there.
The three aisles and side chapels contain a number of tombs, while you can also see on the vaulting of the choir the frescoes of the amazing Pinturicchio. Also, the second chapel on the left was designed by Raphael in 1515, while the Cesari Chapel is where the two Caravaggio paintings are in Santa Maria del Popolo. These would be the Conversion of St Paul and the Crucifixion of St Peter. As we always like to say, the real museums in Rome are churches, and as you can see, Santa Maria del Popolo features not one, but works of 5 big names, on top of its history.
Address: Piazza del Popolo, Rome
7. Sant Andrea della Valle
Sant Andrea della Valle is one of the most famous churches in Rome and a personal favorite too! The building of the church was largely financed by Cardinal Alessandro Peretti di Montalto, the nephew of Pope Sixtus V. Work on Sant Andrea della Valle started in 1591 and it was designed by Gian Francesco Grimaldi and Giacomo della Porta, and in 1608 Maderno took over the work.
Now, the sumptuous travertine facade is from the second half of the 17th century, and this was made by Carlo Rainaldi. The plan of Sant Andrea della Valle is based on the Christian cross, having a vast nave flanked by eight high chapels. One of the most beautiful parts of the basilica is the ceiling and the dome by Carlo Maderno. Definitely worth walking in and looking up. A mirror will help you with it.
8. Chiesa del Gesù
Why look at breathtaking art in museums, when you can spend hours in Chiesa del Gesù to discover all frescoes on the ceiling? Chiesa del Gesù is one of the most famous churches in Rome, built in baroque style. There are plenty of beautiful churches with unmatchable art in Rome, but Chiesa del Gesù is a really unique example.
The church was built in the 16th century, replacing the older Jesuit church where Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order once prayed to an image of the Virgin Mary. There are ornate frescoes as I mentioned, over the nave and inside the dome too. These frescoes in Chiesa del Gesù were made by Giovanni Battista Gaulli in the 17th century. The work is a real masterpiece!
9. Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola
As I have pointed out plenty of times before, visiting churches in Rome is like going to the best museums. One of these would be the incredible Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola, a Roman Catholic titular church dedicated to the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit order) Ignatius of Loyola. Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola was built in baroque style between 1626 and 1650.
Thanks to the need for Collegio Romano, which opened in 1551, the commission for this church was done promptly, and it was completed in 24 years. It also features a Rococo entrance designed by architect Filippo Raguzzini. The ceilings are covered in a fresco called tromple l’ceil, which gives you the impression of a neverending ceiling. This incredible work is topped by the Magnificent and Religion sculptural group by Alessandro Algardi, and the stucco statue of St Ignatius made in 1728 by Camillo Rusconi.
10. Santa Maria in Cosmedin
You might have heard already about one of Rome’s hidden gems, the Bocca della Verita. Now, Santa Maria in Cosmedin Basilica is where you can find this famous monument. The building of the church started in 772and they completed it in 1124. This medieval beauty has a campanile of seven stories. The bocca della verita is under the columns near the porch.
The aisles are painted inside with frescoes, and the church is held by several columns that are recycled from ancient sites. On the piazza just outside the church, you can find one of the most famous churches in Rome, as well as the remains of Roman temples. If you’re looking for medieval churches in Rome with rich surroundings, make sure you stop by Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
Address: Piazza della Bocca della Verita 18, Rome
11. Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is another highlight of famous churches in Rome. It was built on the site of the former temple of Minerva, and it’s the largest Gothic church in Rome. It’s also rare to find Gothic churches in Rome! The construction of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva began in 1280 and it was completed in 1453. Service was by the preaching order of Dominicans and this made it popular in Rome.
With that said Santa Maria Sopra Minerva played an important role in the religious life of the city from the beginning. Inside you can find frescoes from 1489 by Filippo Lippi which glorify the Virgin and St Thomas Aquinas, a member of the Dominican order. Also, the high altar contains the relics of St Catherine of Siena, and you can find in front of the altar on the left a statue from 1521 by Michelangelo.
Address: Piazza della Minerva 42, Rome
12. San Clemente
San Clemente is one of the most beautiful catholic churches in Rome Italy. It’s also one of the oldest churches in Rome. San Clemente was built before 385 by early Christians. In 1084 the church was destroyed by the Normans, and the new basilica was built in the 12th century over the ruins of the original one. The upper part of the church does reflect the old basilican form, featuring an entrance porch, and an atrium with a fountain.
Inside, the nave was where the congregation worshipped, and the high altar and apse areas were reserved for the clergy. You can see ancient columns and stunning inlaid marblework on the floor. Also, the triumphal arch and apse are the most decorated, and they are covered in mosaics of Old and New Testament scenes. These include the Tree of Life, saints, symbols, and plants combined beautifully.
Address: Via San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome
13. Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
The catholic churches in Rome are not always enormous, in fact, many of them are tiny. When you’re visiting churches in Rome, Sant’Andrea al Quirinale is another that you should add to your bucket list. Only a few know that Sant’Andrea al Quirinale is a masterpiece by Berninii. It’s one of the secret gems of the city. The interior is an exuberant expression of the Baroque style, where art, architecture, and design are combined perfectly.
Another secret is, that Sant’Andrea al Quirinale was one of Bernini’s favorite works, even if those who commissioned the work, never paid him. Illusion in arts is always needed, and Bernini’s interior is a great example. In the true Baroque style, the structure of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale has lavish decoration of pilasters and friezes. The arches, recesses, cornicles and windows, marble and stucco flourishes of rose, white, and gold. A gem!
Address: Via del Quirinale 29, Rome
14. Santa Sabina
If you’re visiting churches in Rome, you can’t miss Santa Sabina church. Both the inside and the outside were built by Peter Illyria between 425 and 432. It preserves the character of an early Christian church, while it was rebuilt in 824. You can find on the wall above the entrance is one of Rome’s oldest mosaics, and the wooden doors date back to 432.
Inside the Santa Sabina, the nave is flanked by 20 Corinthian columns of Parian marble. Adjoining the Santa Sabina is a Dominican monastery in which St Thomas Aquinas was a monk. There’s also a cell belonging to St Dominic, which was turned into a chapel by Bernini. Also, if you go on the terrace near the church, you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view over the Tevere River, toward the Vatican City.
Address: Piazza Pietro d’Illiria, Rome
15. Capuchin Crypt – The Bone Chapel in Rome
For all of those who are into creepy places, the Capuchin Crypt, the bone church in Rome should be visited! I know many of you are looking for a church with bones in Rome. Just like in Milan, Rome has its own spooky church too. Capuchin Crypt is a small space comprising several tiny chapels inside the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini. It’s located on Via Veneto, near Piazza Barberini, centrally in the city.
Capuchin Crypt contains the skeletal remains of 3700 bodies who were believed to be Capuchin friars, buried by their order. When in 1631 the friars arrived at the church, from their old monastery, they brought 300 cartloads of remains of deceased friars. Fr Michael of Bergamo was the one overseeing the work and arrangement of the bones in the curial crypts. After the order of Pope Urban VIII, they brought soil from Jerusalem for the crypt.
Wrapping up the 15 most beautiful catholic churches in Rome Italy
Rome is like a museum, and discovering the oldest church in Rome, or all the famous churches in Rome is part of the tour. You can’t find anywhere such beautiful artworks as in the church of St Peter in Rome and frescoes like those in Chiesa del Gesu, or Sant Ignazio in Loyola. Also remember, that not only do art galleries have Caravaggio paintings, but there are churches in Rome with Caravaggio paintings inside!
As a bonus, we also spoke about a church of bones in Rome, and we also asked how many churches in Rome can you find! Make sure you explore more about the Eternal City, and read some other articles, like fountains in Rome, the best things to do, or even luxury hotels in Rome. We have many articles about places to eat in Rome, nightlife, Roman food, and all kinds of activities! Just type in the search box Rome, and you’ll find them all!
Hungarian article: Róma templomai