Throughout their long history, Rome’s churches have taken on many roles. They’ve acted as places of worship, community meeting halls, tourist attractions, and cultural centers showcasing artwork from the most famous artists of the time. The Eternal City alone is home to an astounding 900 churches—many dating back several hundred years, and some even to ancient times.
The wealth of knowledge held within these impressive structures make them excellent resources for students pursuing subjects such as History, Italian Studies, and of course, Art History. Inside Rome’s churches, students will discover stunning architecture from the famous Agrippa, and work from celebrated artists like Cavallini and Stefano Maderno.
Read on to discover which ancient churches you should be sure to visit when you study abroad in Rome!
Perhaps one of the most famous and recognizable ancient structures in the world, the Pantheon is one of the oldest and best preserved buildings in Rome. The original structure was commissioned by famed architect Marcus Agrippa sometime between 27 BC and 14 AD, while the church standing today was completed by the Roman emperor Hadrian around 126 AD.
The most impressive architectural design feature of the Pantheon is its vaulted dome roof, which is believed to have served as a lookout to the heavens – home of the gods. With the spread of Catholicism in the medieval era, Romans slowly stopped worshipping ancient gods like Poseidon and Venus, and the Pantheon was eventually converted from a temple to a Catholic church by Pope Boniface IV in 609.
The long timeline of the Pantheon makes it a great primary resource for students who study History in Rome, especially those with a particular interest in religion.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
Located only a few blocks from the John Cabot University campus is the Santa Cecilia church, first erected in the fifth century. Dedicated to the 2nd century Roman martyr Saint Cecilia, many people believe the church was built on the very place her home once stood.
The church of Saint Cecilia is a haven for students who study Art History in Rome, as its courtyard features several ancient mosaics depicting religious figures such as Saints Peter and Paul. Meanwhile, the interior houses an impressive frescoed ceiling by painter Antonio del Massaro, and a famous sculpture depicting the martyrdom of Saint Cecilia by baroque artist Stefano Maderno.
Santa Maria in Trastevere
Like many ancient churches in Rome, the Santa Maria basilica went through several phases of construction and reconstruction during its lifetime. Located in Piazza di Santa Maria in the Trastevere neighborhood, the Santa Maria basilica is one of the oldest churches in Rome – its primary construction began in 4 AD.
What makes this church a must-see for study abroad students are the 13th century Scenes from the Life of Mary mosaics, painted by Pietro Cavallini. As an added bonus, students who go to visit the basilica will also get to enjoy one of the oldest fountains in Rome, which resides in the middle of Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere.
Which of Rome’s ancient churches do you plan to visit first when you attend university in Italy?