Plan your trip around these 4 major churches in Rome

For over a thousand years, Rome has been a major global hub for religion, including the Catholic branch of Christianity, and is home to some of the oldest churches in the world. The four most important Roman Catholic cathedrals are called major basilicas. Although they are all in the Archdiocese of Rome, only Saint Peter’s Basilica is located in Vatican City, under the authority of the Holy See, while the other three are on Italian soil. Each of these magnificent churches, which are among the most remarkable in the world, houses a pair of sacred doors which are unlocked during each Jubilee year. Pilgrims and visitors from all over the world are inspired by the architecture and art found there.

The four main churches are the Saint-Jean-de-Latran archbasilica, the Saint-Pierre cathedral, the Saint-Paul-hors-les-murs church and the Saint-Marie-Majeure basilica; all other churches called “Basilica” are minor basilicas. Let’s take a look at the four main cathedrals of Rome and take a tour of them.

Saint Peter’s basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the center of the Vatican and is among the tallest religious buildings in the world. It is the largest and most important religious establishment of Catholicism. St. Peter’s Basilica may not be the oldest Catholic cathedral in Rome, but it is undoubtedly the most renowned. The church stands where the first pope, St. Peter, is believed to have been crucified.

The current basilica took nearly 150 years to complete, but it was worth the wait. Works by great Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo, who further sculpted the dome, can be seen throughout the elaborate interior. The basilica and its adjoining chapels and galleries should be appreciated rather than rushed.

Visit of the church

  • Location: Piazza San Pietro, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
  • Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Early morning between 7am and 9am is usually the ideal time to visit without masses.
  • The cathedral and the caves are free to visit.
  • Tourists who are not properly dressed will not be allowed to enter the basilica.
  • When visiting St. Peter, avoid wearing shorts, short dresses, or sleeveless tops and bring a scarf or other blanket. These rules apply to both male and female tourists.

RELATED: Architecture Lovers: Explore Rome’s Neo-Byzantine Church

Saint Paul outside the walls

The Cathedral of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, with its majestic Byzantine construction, is one of the four major basilicas of Rome and the second largest cathedral after Saint Peter. Emperor Constantine I built this neoclassical cathedral over the tomb of Saint Paul in the 4th century. It is the tenth largest in the world, with an area of ​​over 8,500 square meters. It is extremely magnificent, with sparkling mosaics on the outside and massive columns lining the interior.

The beautiful courtyard of the monastery was built between 1220 and 1241. The church was almost completely burnt down due to a fire in 1823, but thanks to the appeal for funds from Pope Leo XII, it was rebuilt in identical and reopened in 1840. the church’s stained glass windows were shattered by a gunpowder explosion in 1891 and were later replaced by sturdier reproductions of transparent alabaster.

Visit of the church

  • Venue: Piazzale San Paolo, 1, 00146 Roma RM, Italy
  • Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is completely free to visit.
  • The dress code at Rome Cathedral is the same as at the Vatican, including skirts or shorts below the knee, draped shoulders, and modest dress as defined by the church.

St. John Lateran

One of the four major basilicas in Rome is San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran). It is the residence church of the Archbishop of Rome and the Pope and is dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. It is considered the mother church of the faithful Roman Catholics.

The church has played an important role in history. All the popes sat in the Cathedral of St. John Lateran until 1870. It is recognized as the church of the world and of Rome. It is believed to be the first Catholic church in the city. Its facade is not as elegant as other cathedrals, but once inside, visitors will be amazed! It’s elaborate, with wall hangings, pillars, mosaics and frescoes; even the candlesticks have prophetic figures.

Visit of the church

  • Location: 2.5 miles outside of Vatican City in Rome.
  • Schedule : Every day from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • The best time to see the cathedral is early in the morning when it is less crowded.
  • The cathedral is free to visit.

RELATED: How to Enjoy Cyprus’ Beautiful UNESCO Churches

Basilica of Saint Mary Major

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, sometimes known as the Coronation of Rome, is one of the most important Catholic churches in the city. It is the oldest and largest sanctuary in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The church houses a large collection of relics and works of art that depict the Christian art civilization of Rome. Pilgrims from all over the world visit the basilica, which has a religious history through all the stained glass windows, pillars and frescoes. On August 5, visitors to Rome can choose to attend the Wonder of the Snows festival, which features thousands of white flowers falling from the roof.

The rich treasures of the museum make St. Mary Major a place where art and spirituality meet in perfect harmony, offering visitors a unique opportunity to contemplate the works of art of man inspired by God.

Visit of the church

  • Location: Square of Santa Maria Maggiore, 00100 Roma RM, Italy
  • Schedule : 7 a.m. to 6:45 p.m.
  • The cathedral is free to visit.
  • Tourists should dress appropriately with covered shoulders and knees.

These four great churches of Rome are undeniably awe-inspiring to see. Discovering their heritage, tourists and pilgrims will be captivated by their architectural design.

helsinki cathedral

The most beautiful churches in Helsinki (and why you should go)

Read more

About the Author