Visiting Rome: the four Papal Basilicas of Rome

Rome is one most loved cities by tourists from all over the world. Thanks to the large amount of monuments and points of historical and cultural interest, it actually is the ideal destination for those who love to visit new places and discover the history and origins of the culture of modern civilization.
For visitors and the believers, among the fundamental stages of a tour of the Eternal City there undoubtedly is the four Papal Basilicas. If you are visiting Rome for a few days, you cannot miss to admire the magnificence of these buildings, splendid examples of religious architecture and places of worship for Catholic Christians.

The 4 Papal Basilicas of Rome
Not everyone knows that the Papal Basilicas actually are six, however, only four of them (those considered "major") are located in the city of Rome, whereas the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (della Porziuncola) and the Basilica of San Francesco are located in Assisi.
The four Roman architectures, falling into the category of major basilicas, have a Holy Door - the walled door exclusively opened during the Jubilee, by the Pope - and the Papal Altar, the sacred place inside the cathedral where only the Holy Father or a few others can celebrate the rite of the Eucharist. It is important to stress that the two minor basilicas of Assisi are not equipped with the Holy Door but only with the Papal Altar.

St. Peter's Basilica
It is the first to be opened by the Pope during the Jubilee and is considered the most important Papal Basilica in Rome. It is also recognized worldwide as the largest church in Christianity. The current structure actually is where the apostle St. Peter was buried; the basilica is located in the square with the same name in the Vatican City and it measures about 23 thousand square metres; its built, between 1506 and 1626, took about a century. The main exponents of the architecture of the time worked on the project including Bramante, author of the majestic dome, Michelangelo, Sangallo, Raffaello and Bernini. The richly decorated interior houses masterpieces, frescoes and sculptures by the most important Italian artists, such as Michelangelo's Pietà, the Tabernacle of the Blessed Sacrament anfd the funeral monuments by Bernini, together with those by Canova and Palladio. The Baroque canopy is a work of immense architectural value, by Bernini, located a few metres from the place where the saint was buried. The exterior, also known as Piazza del Colonnato, was designed by Michelangelo and Bernini, and is topped by the iconic dome inspired by that of the Florence Cathedral.

Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano
The Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano (Papal Archbasilica of the Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and Evangelist in the Lateran), also known as the mother of all churches, is considered one of the most important churches in the city of Rome as well as the Pope's church. Its structure also includes the Sanctuary of the Scala Santa and the Lateran Palace.
The Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano was founded in 311 AD by Pope Melchiade and for this reason it is the oldest of the four Papal Basilicas of Rome: an enchanting work by the architect Borromini, located on the top of the Celio hill; the area where it was built was property of the Laterani family, confiscated during Nero's empire. What you can currently admire inside is the result of the restructuring of Borromini during the seventeenth century; not only that, within its walls there are works by Giotto, frescoes by Ligorio and Daniele da Volterra, the imposing statues of the 12 Apostles, the Papal Altar with its precious tabernacle and frescoes by Barna da Siena. The relics of the apostles Peter and Paul were placed inside silver cases above the tabernacle. The elegant external cloister, built between 1215 and 1232 by Vassalletto, is considered the largest in Rome given its surface of 36 metres per side.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
The third papal basilica is the imposing Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, also known by the name of papal archbasilica major archpriest Liberian of Santa Maria Maggiore. The structure was erected at the behest of Pope Liberius between 352 and 366, to then be restored between 432 and 440 by Pope Sisito III, who dedicated it to the cult of the Madonna. The Basilica enjoys a privileged position, as it actually stands on the top of the Esquiline hill, the highest and largest of the seven hills. The main feature of Santa Maria Maggiore undoubtedly is that, unlike the other three papal basilicas, it has preserved its original early Christian structure. In addition to that, it is known not only for its surprising interiors but also for a legend. It is actually said, that during the night of August 5th 352, Our Lady appeared asleep and suggested to to Pope Liberius to build a basilica where the next day he would have found snow. That point precisely was the Esquiline. So the name of Santa Maria della Neve. As mentioned, the interiors are also noteworthy, it actually is possible to admire the imposing central nave with its mosaics but also the arch of the fifth century, the apses by Torriti and the amazing ceiling by Giuliano da San Gallo. Moreover, the remains of Gian Lorenzo Bernini are preserved in the Central Altar.

Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura
Located along Via Ostiense, it is the second largest one after St. Peter's Basilica, it was built where Paolo di Tarso was buried and, for this reason, its remains are there. The Basilica was actually originally built in the 4th century, however, it underwent numerous renovations, including the most important and recent of the 19th century. Its beauty and historical value made the it UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
The Basilica of San Pietro Fuori le Mura preserves works of art of inestimable value: among the most important there are the quadriporticus and the statue depicting Saint Paul, placed at the entrance, but also the medallions representing the twelve apostles and wonderful mosaics. The latter, the work by Luigi Poletti, make up the images of all the popes who followed one another, from San Pietro to the current Pope Francesco.
Finally, in the external area - the cloister - it is possible to admire archaeological finds and elements belonging to the first construction of the Basilica.

Do you want to stay in Rome?

For this location we recommend Hotel Panama Garden, ideal for discovering Rome thanks to its strategic location.

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