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Best Religious Sites in Rome

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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.

Designed by some of Italy's most infamous master artists, St. Peter's Basilica is not only the world's largest church but is also one of its most spectacular. Originally built at the site of St. Peter's grave around 349 CE by Emperor Constantine, the basilica, as it stands today, was consecrated in 1626 at the culmination of over 120 years of construction. The original designs were laid out by Bramante in 1506, however, over the following years, the ambitious designs were altered by several renown architects including Michelangelo, Giacomo Della Porta and Carlo Maderno, each adding their own personal touch to the magnanimous design. St. Peter's Basilica now enshrines some of the world's most famed artworks including Michelangelo's Pieta and Bernini's Baldachin. The splendid facade and riches that lie within are crowned by an intricately adorned dome that is revered as Michelangelo's most grand architectural legacy. The Pope delivers the Urbi et Orbi blessing each year on the occasion of Christmas and Easter from the basilica's central balcony, attracting millions of devout pilgrims to the threshold of St. Peter's each year. He remains the only one who can serve at the high altar of St. Peter's Basilica.

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, all but the apse, totally destroyed by fire, has been reconstructed to look exactly as it did in the 4th Century. The Roman artist Pietro Cavallini helped with the 13th-century restoration of some frescoes and the mosaic decorating the facade, which unfortunately have not survived. The library and gallery annexed to the basilica complex are well worth visiting. The library holds an extremely rich collection of original manuscripts, including the Bible that belonged to Charles the Bald, a magnificent original illuminated manuscript from the 9th Century. The gallery has precious 15th-century panels and two frescoes transferred onto canvas by Giovanni Lanfranco. This church is also one of the jubilee basilicas.

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.

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.

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.

Enclosed by Bernini's magnificent colonnade, this square has the largest number of visitors in the world. Millions of tourists wait here either for the Pope's Sunday blessing or to enter the Basilica. More than a square, the colonnade gives it the atmosphere of a courtyard, inviting people to enter the church. The obelisk in the heart of the square has been standing there since 1586. When a new pope is being chosen, it is at St. Peter's Square that thousands gather keenly to see the black smoke turn white and find out who the next pope is going to be. During Christmas, a nativity scene and a Christmas tree are installed, and there is a remarkable atmosphere of celebration, with the majestic dome dominating the scene behind.

If you want to see Vignola's beautiful church, the masterpiece amongst his buildings on an elliptic plan, then you need to enter the Vatican City through the gate of Saint Anna, to the right of which you will find the entrance to the Church of Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri. The church was built for the confraternity of Palafrenieri during the second half of the 16th century, but was only finished after the death of the architect's son, Giacinto Barozzi. The interior is of modest dimensions, with two side chapels, and is much simpler than the baroque facade by Alessandro Specchi, which was added many years later.

Located along the historical Via Appia Antica, Chiesa del Domine Quo Vadis, also known as Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Piante was built in 1637. The center of the church features a marble slab on which there are footprints, supposedly belonging to Jesus, and it is these footprints that are alluded to in the church's Latin name. The church is perhaps most famous for its connection to the tale of St. Peter's escape from Rome.

This basilica was erected in honor of the martyred St Agnes, one of the most venerated Roman saints, and for the conservation of her remains. The original complex was conceived of as a majestic construction, the traces of which can still be seen from the Piazza Annibalino area. The present church was built in the 7th Century in the Byzantine style. The mosaic in the apse depicts St Agnes with the symbols of martyrdom and the Popes Simmaco and Onorio at the sides, the latter with a model of the church in his hand. One of its many restorations added the bell-tower and the coffered ceiling in gilded wood. Under the high altar is the tomb of the martyrs Agnes and Emerenziana. The former's statue stands above the altar; it was made in 1605, using the torso of an ancient alabaster statue, to which were added the head, hands and the clothes in gilded bronze. The catacombs on three levels, devoid of pictures, were constructed during the time of the Christian persecution.

Originally commissioned by Marcus Agrippa, and subsequently rebuilt by Hadrian, the Pantheon is a monumental homage to the architectural finesse and ingenuity of the Romans. Massive bronze doors guard the entrance to the central space, sheltered by the graceful arch of the Pantheon's dome. The temple was transformed into a church in the early 7th Century by Pope Boniface IV and has remained well-preserved as a result. The building's primary source of light is the oculus, a circular opening at the dome's apex, rimmed with the original Roman bronze used at the time of its construction. Many famous Italians are buried in the Pantheon, including the Renaissance painter, Raphael, and King Vittorio Emanuele I.

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.

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