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Best Religious Sites in Rome

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Basilica Parrocchiale di San Marco Evangelista al Campidoglio

The Church of San Marco, together with the Palazzo Venezia with which it is joined, is one of the most interesting early Renaissance buildings in Rome. It dates back to 1336 and was built by Pope Mark in honor of St. Mark the Evangelist, who is celebrated on April 25. The church has a 15th-century portico attributed to Leon Battisti Albert. The upper open gallery is designed by Giuliano da Maiano, while the beautiful 16th-century portal is credited to Isaia da Pisa. The church contains numerous medieval remains including an ancient well, and the bell tower. This church belongs to the Venetian community in Rome.

Rome, Italy
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Great Synagogue of Rome

Built post the Italian unification, Tempio Maggiore di Roma is the city's largest synagogue. The construction was completed in 1904, and the 1986 visit by Pope John Paul II made it the first documented synagogue to have been visited by a head of the Roman Catholic Church. As a mark of respect to the victims of the Holocaust and those of the Palestine Liberation Organization attack, the synagogue bears commemorative plates. More than just a place of worship, it is also a cultural center for Rome's Jewish community.

Rome, Italy
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Sant'Andrea della Valle

This church, with the second largest dome in Rome, was designed by Carlo Maderno. He called on his nephew, the young stone-cutter Francesco Borromini, to help him make the capitals of the dome's lantern. Baroque artists such as Giovanni Lanfranco and Domenichino, contributed to the decoration of the walls and ceilings. Popes Pius II and III are buried here, as is Monsignor Giovanni della casa, author of Galateo.

Rome, Italy
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Santa Maria ai Monti

Also called Madonna dei Monti, the church of Santa Maria ai Monti celebrates the Virgin Mary. It was constructed under Pope Gregory XIII. A photograph of the Virgin had astonishingly appeared in a convent nearby. Every year, on April 24 a procession carries this image across the town. Inspired by the church of Gesú, the church has a similar form and its corners have statues of the prophets and the ceilings and walls contain murals and paintings by master artists of those times. The dome has a great structural beauty which leaves one awestruck.

Rome, Italy
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Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Santa Maria in Cosmedin is one of the most represented sites in Rome thanks to cinema fans. How can you not remember Audrey Hepburn who placed her hand inside the Bocca della verità (Mouth of Truth) in Roman Holiday? It is here that the famous stone mask is located that, according to legend, bites off the hands of liars who place their hands inside. This basilica was constructed on the ancient site of a grocery market. Its famous façade consists of a portico with arches, inside which is a stone mask known as The Mouth of Truth, reputed to bite off the hand of any liar who dares to reach inside. Inside the basilica is a mosaic-covered floor and a wooden ceiling, added during successive restorations. Later restorations added the choir with two pulpits and the high altar in red granite. The seven story, Romanesque bell tower is considered the most beautiful in Rome.

Rome, Italy
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Sant'Andrea al Quirinale

This church was designed by Bernini and is a fine example of his Baroque period. The interior, which is decorated with pink marble, takes its inspiration from the Pantheon. The light coming from the windows of the cupola and the lamps, highlights the stucco work and the gold leaf. This church was built for the Jesuits and so there are some works by Baciccia, the Jesuit artist of the period. His works are also in the Church of Jesus. Above the main altar, you will see a painting by Borgognone representing the Martyrdom of St Andrew.

Rome, Italy
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San Luigi dei Francesi

This national French church holds the tombs of many famous French people. Caravaggio is one artist who features in this beautiful Renaissance church. There is a wooden pulpit with painted panels, fairly unusual for Roman churches; the façade was carried out by Domenico Fontana following a design by Giacomo della Porta; San Luigi is immortalized in a fresco by Natoire, and Il Domenichino frescoed Santa Cecilia's chapel.

Rome, Italy
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Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza

Located in the courtyard of Palazzo della Sapienza, the church of Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza was an outcome of Borromini's architectural knowledge. This architectural marvel was founded by Pope Boniface the VIII and is a must-visit religious site in Rome. The Palazzo now housing the Italian State Archives, contains all the official documents since the 9th Century till the date the Italian Republic was founded in 1870. Therefore, this place is of great Italian historical significance. The entry is free for all.

Rome, Italy
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Santa Cecilia

The Chiesa di Santa Cecilia is one of the most noteworthy churches amongst Rome's medieval churches known for its valuable works of art. The statue of Saint Cecilia is placed under the main altar over the saint's grave and is the artistic work of Maderno. The sculptor depicted Cecilia in the same way in which her body was found during the excavations of 1599, with a long cut in her neck, which caused her death after three days of agony and after having undergone the martyrdom of suffocation by boiling vapors. The altar is of great architectural importance because of the gothic canopy by Arnolfo di Cambio which shrouds it. The altar also holds the work of Reni, the Decollazione della Santa. The cloisters can be entered through the left-hand aisle and are worth visiting.

Rome, Italy
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Santa Maria della Scala

This church is an impressive structure and attracts many for its miraculous properties. The image of Mother Mary that is kept here is believed to have cured a child of his deformity. It was constructed in 1610 CE by Octavian Matte and designed by Francesco da Volterra. The beauty of the structure lies in its simplicity. There is artwork in the main hall, carried out by Carlo Saraceni and Gerrit Honthorst. The church was also used as a medical facility to treat wounded soldiers in the war against France.

Rome, Italy
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Santa Prassede

This church, dedicated to St Praxedes, contains one of the greatest expressions of medieval art in Rome. St Praxedes was martyred because, together with her sister Prudence, she collected the blood of the dead Christians with a sponge and poured it into a well. There is a porphyry slab in the center of the floor, which covers the well. The chapel of St Zenone is perhaps one of the most important Byzantine monuments, with its black marble columns and mosaics. In the chapel there is a room which houses the Flagellation column upon which Jesus was scourged; it was brought from Jerusalem in 1223. Also in this church is Bishop Santoni's funeral monument, by Bernini - his first work - which he completed at the age of 16. In the crypt is the sarcophagus containing relics of St Praxedes and St Prudence.

Rome, Italy
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Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano

A visit to Basilica di San Clemente al Laterano is a fascinating journey through time. From the upper basilica, which dates from the beginning of the 12th Century and whose apse boasts the mosaic The Triumph of the Cross, one passes into the 4th-century lower basilica, and, via a stairway, down to the Roman constructions and the mitreo, a 3rd-century temple dedicated to the God Mithra. Of particular interest are the frescoes in the chapel of St Catherine, painted between 1428 and 1431 by Masolino da Panicale, possibly with the collaboration of Masaccio.

Rome, Italy
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