12 Top Beautiful Churches in Rome 2023: Guide
This list of the best churches in Rome will help you get to know one of the great tourist attractions of the Eternal City that we are sure will exceed all your expectations.
After Emperor Theodosius I recognized Christianity as the official religion, the number of churches in the city of Rome began to increase rapidly until it reached more than 900, becoming the world center of Christianity with Saint Peter’s Basilica as a great reference.
We know that choosing the ones you will visit during a trip to Rome is not an easy task, since this largely depends on the days you have available and your concerns, although from our experience we can tell you that some essential ones stand out from the rest. Either because of the historical and religious importance, the works of art they have inside, or their architectural style.
Based on the experience of the numerous times we have visited this city, the first time on a 5-day trip to Rome and the last time we lived in the Trastevere neighborhood for almost two months, during which we wrote this advice guide for traveling to Rome, we have made this list of what we believe are the 12 most beautiful churches in Rome. Let’s start!
1. St. Peter’s Basilica
Located in the center of Rome, in the small independent state of the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica is the most important Catholic religious building and beautiful church in Rome.
In addition to hosting the Holy See and being the place where the Pope performs the most critical liturgies, this church falls in love with its fantastic works of art inside, such as the Pietà by Michelangelo, the statue of Saint Peter or the Baldachin by Bernini, as well to have one of the best views of Rome from the top of its dome.
In our case, we combine this visit with access to the Vatican Necropolis, located under the Basilica and where Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, was buried.
Although the entrance to the Basilica of San Pedro is free, if you want to learn more about its history and skip the long queues that form at the door, we recommend you book this guided tour in Spanish or this one that includes a visit to the cemetery.
Remember that if your visit coincides with a Wednesday, you can go to Plaza San Pedro to follow the sermon the Pope gave from a window at 10:30 am. Another option to listen to and see him more closely is to book this audience with the Pope.
2. Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran
The Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, considered the oldest church in the world and the most important of the four major basilicas in the city, is another of the most beautiful churches in Rome.
Located opposite the Holy Stairs, which according to tradition, Jesus Christ climbed to judge on Good Friday, this temple was built in the 4th century in honor of Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist and has become the cathedral of the diocese of Rome. And where the episcopal seat is located.
It is worth observing its main façade topped with statues of Christ and Saints, then crossing the imposing bronze doors and admiring the ample interior space decorated with large sculptures and mosaics.
You can book this free tour of the church and the Holy Stairs to learn more about its history and not miss anything important.
We were visiting hours: every day from 7 am to 6:30 pm.
3. San Pietro in Vincoli is one of the churches in Rome that you cannot miss
Another of our favorite churches in Rome is the Basilica of San Pietro in Vincoli, built in the 5th century to house the chains with which Saint Peter was imprisoned in Jerusalem, although more famous for housing the impressive statue of Moses.
In addition to seeing the shrine where the chains are kept, located under the altar, it is worth paying attention to all the details of the mausoleum of Pope Julius II, a monument made by the genius Michelangelo, from which the sculpture of Moses stands out.
We were visiting hours: every day from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:30 pm to 6:00 pm.
4. Santa Maria in Trastevere
One of the most exciting places to see in Trastevere, a bohemian neighborhood full of narrow streets where you can get lost, is the Basilica of Santa Maria, one of the oldest and best churches in Rome.
Located in the busy Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere, this building impresses the thousands of tourists who walk through this neighborhood every day for its medieval-looking façade from which some precious golden mosaics on the façade and a 12th-century bell tower stand out.
The interior does not disappoint, with twenty columns from Roman times and a coffered wooden ceiling. In addition, it houses the iconic image of the Virgen de la Clemencia from the 6th century and a beautiful golden mosaic in the apse.
We were visiting hours: every day from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm.
5. Basilica of Santa Maria la Mayor
The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is the largest church in the city dedicated to the Virgin Mary and one of the seven churches in Rome that you must visit during the pilgrimage to achieve plenary indulgence in the Holy Year.
This imposing church in Rome still preserves a 75-meter bell tower from the 14th century. It stands out for its mix of styles that you can see inside, with a marble floor from medieval times, mosaics representing the Old Testament from the 15th century, a wooden coffered ceiling, and several baroque-style chapels.
If you are a lover of the baroque, it is advisable to book this free tour of the best baroque churches in Rome.
We were visiting hours: every day from 7 am to 6:30 pm.
6. Santa Maria in Cosmedin, another of the most important churches in Rome
In front of the Forum Boarium, the old animal market from the Empire is the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, a medieval temple famous for having the Mouth of Truth in its entrance, which is another of the places to see in Rome essential.
Tourists queue up at the entrance to take a photo by inserting their hand into this old sewer that appeared in the movie “Roman Holidays,” According to legend, the mouth will close if you lie.
Even though this is the biggest attraction, we recommend that you take advantage of entering its beautiful interior, where you will find Roman columns, two mosaics from the 8th century, an 8th-century crypt that houses pilgrim relics, and a Gothic canopy—visiting hours: every day from 9:30 am to 5:50 pm.
7. Saint Paul Outside the Walls
Another of the best things to do in Rome is to get away from the center, outside the ancient walls that surrounded the city, to visit the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
This central Basilica, the second largest after St. Peter’s, was built in the 4th century by order of Emperor Constantine over the tomb of St. Paul and impressed with its alabaster columns, 13th-century golden mosaics, a beautiful cloister, a Gothic canopy, and the crypt of Saint Paul.
To learn more about the history of this church and the Basilica of San Juan de Letrán, we suggest you book this tour of Christian Rome. We were visiting hours: every day from 7 am to 6:30 pm.
8. Santa Maria del Popolo, another of the best churches in Rome
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, located in Piazza del Popolo, next to one of the city’s ancient gates, is another of the most important churches in Rome.
Built in the 15th century by Pope Sixtus IV, this church is a small Renaissance museum with masterpieces by great geniuses such as Bramante, Raphael, Bernini, and Caravaggio decorating various chapels such as the Cerasi Chapel and the Chigi Chapel.
We were visiting hours: Sunday to Friday from 7:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm; Saturday from 7:30 am to 9:00 pm.
9. Saint Clement
The Basilica of San Clemente, located a few meters from the Roman Colosseum and dedicated to Pope Clement I, the third Pope after Saint Peter, is another of the most beautiful churches in Rome.
During the visit to the church, you will go back several centuries, accessing a small church from the end of the 3rd century, an old Mitreo from the 1st century, and old Roman houses on which the foundations of the current building were laid.
Among its wonders are several frescoes and mosaics from the 12th century (lower Basilica), a Roman marble altar (Roman houses), and an apse with the mosaic with the Triumph of the Cross in the upper Basilica.
Visiting hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 12:30 pm and from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm; Sunday from 12 pm to 6 pm
10. Santa Maria de los Angeles, another of the best churches in Rome
The Basilica of Santa Maria de los Angeles, built by Michelangelo on the ruins of the Baths of Diocletian, is the only Renaissance church in the city and another of the best churches in Rome.
Built-in memory of all the Christian martyrs who died during the construction of the baths, this temple is surprising due to the contrast between its half-ruined façade, which was one of the apses of the caldarium of the baths, and the spectacular beauty of its interior by of the great Michelangelo, dominated by large frescoes, marble columns and the famous Meridian Line with its curious sundial—visiting hours: every day from 7 am to 7:30 pm.
11. Church of Santa Maria de la Concepcion
Famous for the eerie bone-filled crypt below, the Church of Santa Maria della Concepcion is one of the most impressive churches in Rome.
Built between 1626 and 1631 by order of Pope Urban VIII in honor of his brother Antonio Barberini, who was part of the Capuchin Order, it stands out for housing the mortal remains of more than 4,000 Capuccino brothers arranged in an “artistic” way and forming different decorative elements.
A magnificent way to discover the curiosities of this church is to book this guided tour that includes a visit to the church of Santa María de la Victoria, a church in Rome that hides one of the fabulous jewels of the Baroque, such as the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa.
We were visiting hours: every day from 9 am to 7 pm.
12. Agrippa’s Pantheon
Although it may surprise you, the famous Pantheon of Agrippa, one of the best-preserved buildings of Ancient Rome, has functioned as a church since the 7th century, so we cannot fail to include it in this list of the most beautiful churches in Rome.
Known as the Basilica of Santa Maria and the Martyrs or Santa Maria Rotunda, this circular building, commissioned by Marco Agrippa and completed by Emperor Hadrian in the year 126, went from a pagan temple to worshiping Christianity in the early Middle Ages thanks to Pope Boniface IV, thus avoiding its destruction.
Masses are celebrated in the impressive interior, illuminated with natural light, thanks to an oculus in the dome. There is the tomb of the famous Renaissance artist Raphael and several kings of Italy.
What is the most beautiful church in Italy?
Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture in Italy, and one of the world’s largest and most beautiful churches. Its iconic central dome dominates the skyline of Rome, and its façade is flanked by tall colonnades.
What is the famous church in Rome?
St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, the most famous Rome church.
What are the 7 churches in Rome?
The Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome are listed in the following order in the guide by Franzini (1595): San Giovanni Laterano, St Peter’s, San Paolo fuori le mura, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Lorenzo fuori le mura, San Sebastiano, and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
What are the four major churches of Rome?
The Ancient Four Major Basilicas of Rome are the Basilica of St Peter, the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, the Basilica of St Mary Major and the Arch-Basilica of St John Lateran.