Hoeveel Kerken Zijn Er in Rome: A Deep Dive Into the Eternal City

Rome, often referred to as the “Eternal City,” is a treasure trove of history and culture, especially renowned for its remarkable array of churches. With over 900 places of worship within its city limits, it’s no wonder that Rome is frequently associated with Christianity and its profound historical roots in this ancient city. The number alone speaks volumes about the deep religious heritage and architectural grandeur that Rome has to offer.

I’ve always been fascinated by the sheer density of churches in Rome—each one telling a unique story through its intricate frescoes, magnificent altars, and awe-inspiring domes. From the major basilicas like St. Peter’s in Vatican City to smaller chapels tucked away in quiet neighborhoods, these sacred sites are not just places for religious observance but also monuments of artistic expression that have stood the test of time.

When you’re walking through the cobblestone streets of Rome, it seems like there’s a church around every corner—and there practically is! The city’s rich tapestry woven from centuries-old traditions is beautifully represented by each church’s distinctive character and history. Whether they’re Romanesque, Gothic or Baroque in style, these ecclesiastical buildings contribute significantly to Rome’s status as an epicenter for art and religion worldwide.

History of Churches in Rome

Diving into the storied past of Rome, it’s clear that churches are not just places of worship but also vaults of history and art. The Eternal City, as some like to call it, is home to more than 900 churches, a testament to its rich Christian heritage which dates back thousands of years.

The very first Christians in Rome practiced their faith in secret due to persecution. It wasn’t until Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD that Christians could openly worship. This pivotal moment led to the construction of grand basilicas and churches across Rome.

Among these ancient structures is the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the first churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary after the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD declared her Theotokos, meaning God-bearer or Mother of God. Another significant church is St. Peter’s Basilica, originally built by Constantine over what was believed to be Saint Peter’s tomb.

Throughout medieval times and into the Renaissance and Baroque periods, new layers were added onto existing buildings or entirely new edifices rose from the ground. Architects and artists like Michelangelo and Bernini contributed their genius to creating magnificent spaces for divine service as well as public admiration.

Here’s a glimpse at some key dates:

Event Year
Edict of Milan Legalizes Christianity 313 AD
Dedication of St. John Lateran (First Catholic Cathedral) 324 AD
First Recorded Use of Santa Maria Maggiore Early 5th Century
Council Of Ephesus (Mary Declared Theotokos) 431 AD

As you walk through Rome today you’ll find an eclectic mix ranging from ancient Christian catacombs beneath street level all the way up to Baroque masterpieces that dominate city squares. Each church has its own story contributing pieces to the complex mosaic that is Roman religious history.

  • Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore: One among four major basilicas; houses a piece claimed to be from Jesus’ manger.
  • St. Peter’s Basilica: Largest Christian church building globally; recognized for its iconic dome designed by Michelangelo.
  • Pantheon: Originally built as a pagan temple; later consecrated as a Christian church known as Santa Maria ad Martyres.

These holy sites are not only spiritual havens but also guardianship places for incredible works such as frescoes by Giotto or Caravaggio’s paintings which magnetize both pilgrims and art lovers alike. With every cobblestone echoing tales from centuries past, exploring them offers an unrivaled voyage through time encapsulating faith, culture, and beauty unlike anywhere else on earth.

Famous Churches in Rome

Rome isn’t just the capital of Italy; it’s also a sanctuary of historical and breathtakingly beautiful churches. With over 900 churches dotted around the city, visitors often marvel at how each church has its own unique story and architectural splendor.

One can hardly talk about the churches in Rome without mentioning St. Peter’s Basilica, an iconic symbol of the Vatican City. It’s one of the largest churches in the world and certainly one of the most visited, with its imposing dome designed by Michelangelo standing proud against the Roman skyline. This basilica holds a treasure trove of art including Michelangelo’s Pietà and Bernini’s Baldacchino.

Another gem is the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, which dates back to the 5th century. It boasts stunning mosaics that have stood the test of time, depicting various biblical scenes with shimmering gold backgrounds. Visitors are especially drawn to its impressive Sistine Chapel (not to be confused with THE Sistine Chapel in Vatican City), named after Pope Sixtus V.

The Pantheon, originally built as a temple for all pagan gods, was later consecrated as a Christian church known as Santa Maria ad Martyres. Its architecture is famed for its perfect proportions and awe-inspiring oculus—a circular opening at the apex of its dome that illuminates its interior with natural light.

If you’re looking for something less frequented by tourists but equally fascinating, don’t miss out on San Luigi dei Francesi. It’s home to three stunning Caravaggio paintings that art lovers flock to see: “The Calling of Saint Matthew”, “Saint Matthew and the Angel”, and “The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew”.

Each church tells a different tale—of faith, artistry, power or simply human ingenuity—and they collectively weave into Rome’s rich historical tapestry.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Standing as a testament to faith and art, St. Peter’s Basilica is not just any church—it’s an iconic symbol of the Vatican City and the Catholic world. With its imposing dome dominating the skyline, it beckons millions of visitors each year who come to marvel at its architectural splendor and historical significance. I’ve had the privilege of walking through its massive bronze doors, and let me tell you, it’s an experience that stays with you.

The basilica holds a treasure trove of artistic masterpieces ranging from Michelangelo’s Pietà to Bernini’s Baldachin over the papal altar. These aren’t just random pieces of art; they’re integral parts of Christian history woven into the very fabric of this sacred space. The Pietà alone attracts countless admirers, many standing in awe at Michelangelo’s ability to capture emotion in marble.

Its dimensions are staggering when you consider that St. Peter’s Basilica can house over 60,000 people during important ceremonies like Easter Mass or a Papal Conclave. Here’s a quick look at some key figures:

Feature Measurement
Length 730 feet (220 meters)
Width (at transept) 500 feet (150 meters)
Height (max interior) 393 feet (120 meters)
Dome Diameter 138 feet (42 meters)

These numbers don’t just paint a picture of grandeur; they represent centuries-old ambition to create a center for Christianity that would stand the test of time.

Legend has it that St. Peter himself—considered by many as the first pope—is buried beneath the high altar, adding layers upon layers to the basilica’s spiritual resonance. Pilgrims often gather here in silent prayer or simply to feel closer to history itself.

As I walked out under Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s colossal colonnade embracing St. Peter’s Square, I couldn’t help but feel humbled by this monumental creation—a place where architecture and faith collide in perfect harmony.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Nestled in the heart of Rome, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore stands as one of the city’s most magnificent churches. It holds the title of a Papal major basilica, one of only four in Rome that hold such prestige. Dating back to the 5th century, it’s not just an architectural marvel but also a repository of history.

The basilica is renowned for its stunning mosaics, which date from different periods throughout its long history. These glittering works depict various Christian themes and are considered some of the best-preserved mosaics from antiquity. The 36-meter high bell tower is another striking feature – it’s the tallest in Rome and adds to the church’s imposing silhouette against the city skyline.

A visit to this sacred site reveals a treasure trove of art including:

  • The Sistine Chapel (not to be confused with its more famous Vatican namesake), which was beautifully decorated by Renaissance artists.
  • The Borghese Chapel that houses one of the most venerated images of Mary in Rome – Salus Populi Romani.
  • A captivating collection of artifacts and ancient texts within its museum.

Every year thousands flock to Santa Maria Maggiore during important religious festivals. Especially on August 5th when Romans celebrate La Madonna della Neve (Our Lady of Snows) commemorating the legendary snowfall that outlined where the basilica would be built.

This basilica isn’t just a place for worship; it encapsulates layers upon layers of Roman history, artistry, and spirituality. For anyone seeking to understand Rome’s ecclesiastical heritage or simply wishing to stand amidst awe-inspiring beauty, Santa Maria Maggiore is an essential stop on any itinerary.

Basilica of Saint John Lateran

The Basilica of Saint John Lateran holds a special place in the heart of Rome and for many, it’s considered the mother church among the city’s ecclesiastical bounty. Officially known as the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, this magnificent structure is the oldest and ranks first among the four Papal Basilicas of Rome. Its significance is rooted in its role as the official seat of the Bishop of Rome—who is none other than the Pope himself.

Stepping into this historical powerhouse, visitors are immediately struck by its lavish interior—the result of many renovations over centuries. The basilica has survived earthquakes, fires, and even plundering during barbarian invasions but always rose again, each time being restored with grander designs.

Here’s a glimpse into what makes this basilica stand out:

  • Dedication: It was dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.
  • Papal Throne: It houses both a papal throne and a cathedral altar only used by the Pope.
  • Holy Door: Similar to St. Peter’s Basilica, it has a Holy Door that opens during Jubilee years.

Visiting during Easter or on other holy days provides an opportunity to witness ceremonies steeped in centuries-old tradition; however, any day spent here offers insight into its storied past. History buffs might be intrigued to know that six ecumenical councils have been held within these walls—a testament to its longstanding influence on Christian doctrine.

Architecturally speaking, St. John Lateran boasts an impressive façade featuring statues of Christ and various saints while inside you’ll find ornate baroque decorations juxtaposed against earlier medieval elements— evidence of architectural evolution throughout different periods. The 12 colossal apostles lining the nave leave most visitors in awe at their sheer size and artistry.

This basilica isn’t just another church; it’s an emblematic beacon for Catholicism with profound religious importance that echoes through its vast halls every day—an irreplaceable jewel in Rome’s spiritual crown.

Other Notable Churches in Rome

Beyond the Vatican and its monumental St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome is a treasure trove of lesser-known but equally captivating churches filled with art, history, and unique stories. Let’s delve into some of these hidden gems.

Santa Maria in Trastevere stands out as one of the oldest churches in Rome, believed to date back to the 3rd century. This church boasts mosaics that shimmer with gold, and it’s nestled in one of Rome’s most charming neighborhoods. Its piazza comes alive at night, making a visit here a blend of cultural immersion and historical exploration.

Next on our list is San Luigi dei Francesi, famous for housing three Caravaggio masterpieces within its walls. Art enthusiasts flock here to admire “The Calling of Saint Matthew,” “Saint Matthew and the Angel,” and “The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.” The best part? There’s no entry fee—these works are available for public viewing as part of the church’s commitment to accessible art.

Another standout is Santa Maria sopra Minerva, which sits right behind the Pantheon. This Gothic church might appear unassuming from outside but step inside and you’re greeted by an interior boasting an impressive blue ceiling studded with golden stars—a striking contrast to the many Baroque churches around the city.

  • Santa Prassede also deserves mention for its stunning 9th-century mosaics.
  • San Clemente offers visitors not just beautiful frescoes but also an intriguing archaeological journey through time as it houses layers upon layers of history beneath its current structure.

For those keen on architectural marvels, Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza showcases Francesco Borromini’s genius. His distinctive spire twists skywards like a spiral—an iconic feature that captures eyes and imaginations alike.

Here are some quick stats about these notable churches:

Church Date Unique Feature
Santa Maria in Trastevere 3rd Century Ancient Mosaics
San Luigi dei Francesi 16th Century Caravaggio Paintings
Santa Maria sopra Minerva 13th Century Gothic Architecture & Blue Ceiling
Santa Prassede Early 9th Century Byzantine Mosaics
San Clemente al Laterano Originally 4th Century (rebuilt later) Archaeological Layers

Rome’s churches tell stories not just through their religious significance but also their artistry; each stone laid down centuries ago still speaks volumes today. Whether it be early Christian mosaics or Renaissance masterpieces adorning their interiors—I find there’s always something new to discover within these sacred walls.


Wrapping up this exploration of Rome’s ecclesiastical landscape, it’s clear we’re looking at a city with a rich tapestry of religious heritage. The sheer number of churches in Rome is more than just a figure; it symbolizes the profound historical and cultural significance of the city within Christianity.

My research indicates that there are over 900 churches scattered throughout Rome. This astonishing number includes everything from grand basilicas to smaller, lesser-known chapels, each with its own unique story and architectural marvels.

Here’s a quick recap:

  • St. Peter’s Basilica stands as the crowning jewel among them all.
  • Churches like Santa Maria Maggiore and San Giovanni in Laterano hold significant religious importance.
  • Numerous other sacred sites offer insights into early Christian art, architecture, and history.

Rome’s churches are not simply places of worship—they’re gateways to understanding centuries of devotion, artistry, and Roman history. Whether you’re a pilgrim or an avid traveler with an eye for beauty, every church door opens to another page in Rome’s eternal story.

If you ever visit Rome or simply wish to learn more about its churches from afar, remember that they represent milestones in the timeline of human faith and creativity. I hope this article has provided valuable insights into how deeply interwoven religion is with the very heart of this ancient city.

As my journey through these hallowed halls concludes for now, I’m left with a sense of awe for what humanity has built—and sustained—through ages past. It’s been both enlightening and humbling to delve into such a topic that resonates with so many across generations.

For those who seek further information or plan their own exploration around these spiritual landmarks, may your path be filled with discovery and reflection on the stories these stones have witnessed—and will continue to witness long after our time.