Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

The Church of St Maria sopra Minerva was built in the 8th century over the ruins of the original temple of Minerva, goddess revered as the protector of Rome, of arts and of all humanity. Now this Christian church is dedicated to the Vergin Mary. Under the high altar lies the body of another important woman, St Catherine of Siena, even if her head was returned to St Dominic’s Church in Siena.  In a lateral chapel lies the body of the great painter Beato Angelic. Just beside the main altar of the church there is another masterpiece, the statue by Michelangelo of the Risen Christ. In 1542 Pope Paul III established the Congregation of the Holy Office of the Inquisition as a permanent congregation staffed with cardinals and other officials to maintain and defend the integrity of the faith.  Arguably the most famous case tried by the Roman Inquisition involved Galileo Galilei who, in 1633 in the Church of St Maria Sopra Minerva was forced to recant his theory.

San Sebastiano fuori le mura

St Sebastiano is one of the seven basilicas travellers to Rome usually visited, in particular after 1552 when St. Philip Neri promoted The Pilgrimage of the 7 Churches. Initially was called Basilica of Apostolorum, because the tradition has it that the relics of the two apostles were taken from their tombs in St Peter’s and St Paul outside the Walls to here for safe-keeping during a persecution by the emperor Valerian, and subsequently returned where their basilicas were built. Nowadays it is dedicated to St Sebatian .According to an account by St. Ambrose, Sebastian was an officer in the guard of Emperor Diocletian. He embraced the Christian faith and promoted the conversion of two guards. When Diocletian learnt about his behavior, he sentenced him to death and ordered his fellows to execute him. They tied him to a tree and shot some arrows at him, then they left the site believing Sebastian was dead, but he was not and he recovered thanks to the cures of a Christian matron. He returned to the Imperial Palace to testify his faith and was  sentenced again to death. this time Diocletian ordered that he should be beaten to death in Circus Maximus. The Chapel of Relics, located directly across the nave, houses a stone allegedly imprinted with the footprints of Jesus related to the episode of “Quo vadis?” in the apocryphal Acts of Peter and one of the arrows which struck St Sebastian together with part of the column to which he was tied during the martyrdom.

Basilica of St Peter in chains

Not far from the Coliseum, this Basilica was built in the 5th century over the site where S. Peter was sentenced to death by the Roman Tribunal. The tradition has it that the bishop of Jerusalem gave the chains that possibly held St. Peter while he was imprisoned in Jerusalem to Eudoxia’s mother who sent them to her daughter in Rome. Eudoxia brought the chains back and gave them to pope Leo I, who placed them in this church, together with the chains that had held St. Peter while he was in the Mamertine prison in Rome. According to a medieval legend, the two chains then miraculously joined together. The chains are now prominently displayed in a beautiful golden reliquary under the high altar. Centuries later, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to design his tomb.

Basilica of Holy Cross in Jerusalem

Founded by St Helena AD 320 on the grounds of her private home, this church houses the relics of the true cross where Jesus Christ was crucified upon. In the Sanctuary of the Cross  there is also a nail from Jesus’s crucifixion, 2 thorns from is crown, pieces of the pillar to which he was tied, the Titulus Crucis which, according to experts is perfectly compatible with the references in the Bible, in particular the Book of John “Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews”. Furthermore she used a large quantity of earth from Calvary to cover the pavement of the chapel.  During the course of the centuries Holy Cross was enriched with other relics including fragments from the grotto in Bethlehem, from the Holy Sepulchre, part of the cross of the Good Thief and the finger of St. Thomas.

St Prassede

The Basilica of Saint Praxedes is an ancient titular church and minor basilica in Rome built on the spring where St Praxedes and her sister St Pudentiana, the daughters of St Pudens in whose house St. Peter reportedly stayed while he was in Rome, collected the bones of the martyrs killed on Esquilino Hill.

Basilica of St Peter

From the piazza that, with its 140 statues of saints, embrace the Christians who come to centre of Christianity, one enters the Basilica that is the sanctuary and mausoleum of Peter, Vicar of Christ, Prince of Apostles and first pope. It is an immense space crammed with masterpieces of art.