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Rome Attractions Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere: Rome’s Oldest and Most Beloved Church

As you wander through the cobbled streets of Trastevere, the charming district of Rome, you can’t help but be drawn to the allure of Santa Maria in Trastevere. With its intricate mosaics and centuries-old history, this ancient basilica beckons you to step inside and discover its secrets.

From its humble beginnings as a place of worship to its status as a symbol of faith and art, Santa Maria in Trastevere has a story that will captivate your imagination.

But what makes this church genuinely unique? What hidden gems lie within its walls? Join us as we uncover the mysteries of Santa Maria in Trastevere. This journey promises to leave you wanting more.


The history of Santa Maria in Trastevere is rich and fascinating, dating back to its origins in ancient Rome. The basilica has witnessed the rise of Christianity and has been a witness to significant events throughout the centuries. It’s believed to have been founded by Pope Callixtus I around 220 AD, making it one of the oldest churches in Rome. Originally a titular Christian worship church, it became the first place in Rome where mass was openly celebrated. Emperor Alexander Severus even created a space for Christian use on the site.

The basilica has also played a significant role in the martyrdom of saints. In the Middle Ages, it became a shrine dedicated to the martyrs. Pope Gregory IV re-ordered the church, and relics of saints such as Callixtus, Cornelius, Pope Julius, and Calepodius were housed there. The basilica also became affiliated with the diocese of Santa Rufina.

Santa Maria in Trastevere has been influenced by various artistic styles and influences throughout history. Notable artists such as Pietro Cavallini and Domenichino have contributed to the art and architecture of the basilica. The exterior features of the church, including the layout, fabric, façade, campanile (bell tower), and doors, showcase the rich artistic heritage.


As you approach Santa Maria in Trastevere, you will be captivated by its exterior’s architectural beauty and historical significance. The façade of the basilica, reconstructed between 1138 and 1148, features five arches with Ionic pilasters and blue marble Ionic columns. It is difficult to determine which parts are original and which were scavenged, but the Romanesque style has been maintained. Carlo Fontana fully restored the façade in 1702, adding to its grandeur. Four Baroque statues on the balustrade depict Saints Calixtus, Cornelius, Julius, and Calepodius, further enhancing the exterior decorations.

The bell tower, also known as the campanile, was built in the 12th century. Its design is a testament to the architectural layout of the basilica and complements the overall structure. The narthex, an enclosed entrance area, is crucial as it transitions between the church’s exterior and interior.

To provide a more enjoyable and relatable reading experience, here is a table summarizing the exterior features of Santa Maria in Trastevere:

FaçadeFive arches with Ionic pilasters and blue marble Ionic columns
Bell towerBuilt in the 12th century, it complements the architectural layout
NarthexThe enclosed entrance area serves as a transition between exterior and interior.
Architectural layoutReflects the Romanesque style, reconstructed by Carlo Fontana
Exterior decorationsFour Baroque statues on the balustrade depict Saints Calixtus, Cornelius, Julius, and Calepodius.

As you take in the magnificence of Santa Maria in Trastevere’s exterior, you will appreciate the intricate details and the rich history surrounding this ancient basilica.


Step inside Santa Maria in Trastevere and be immersed in the captivating beauty and rich history of its interior. The lobby welcomes you with its grandeur, leading you into the nave with its high ceilings adorned with intricate frescoes. You are drawn to the magnificent sanctuary mosaics as you approach the sanctuary. These mosaics, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, depict scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin Mary, showcasing the exquisite artistry of Pietro Cavallini.

You’ll find the high altar at the center of the sanctuary, a focal point of worship. The altar is adorned with ornate decorations, a testament to the faithful’s devotion. Nearby, the Episcopal throne stands as a symbol of authority and reverence. It’s a reminder of the vital role that this basilica plays in the Catholic Church.

Throughout the interior, you’ll also discover various art pieces and frescoes, each telling a story and adding to the visual splendor of the space. These works of art, created by renowned artists such as Domenichino, reflect the rich artistic heritage of the basilica.

Step inside Santa Maria in Trastevere and experience the awe-inspiring beauty of its interior, where history and art come together in perfect harmony.

The best time to visit

When planning your visit to Santa Maria in Trastevere, it’s essential to consider the best time to experience this ancient basilica’s captivating beauty and rich history. To help you make the most of your visit, here is some practical information about crowd levels, weather conditions, tourist season, special events, and quiet hours.

Best Time to VisitDetails
Crowd LevelsSanta Maria in Trastevere is a popular tourist attraction, so it can get crowded, especially during peak tourist season. To avoid large crowds, visiting early in the morning or during weekdays is best.
Weather ConditionsRome experiences a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and mild winters. The best time to visit in terms of weather is during spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October), when the temperatures are pleasant and rainfall is minimal.
Tourist SeasonThe peak tourist season in Rome is from April to October, with July and August being the busiest months. If you prefer to avoid the crowds and long queues, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn.
Special EventsSanta Maria in Trastevere hosts special events throughout the year, such as religious festivals and concerts. Check the basilica’s website or local event listings to see if any events coincide with your visit, as they can enhance your experience.
Quiet HoursThe basilica is a place of worship, so respecting the quiet hours is essential. Avoid visiting during mass times, usually in the mornings and evenings, to ensure a peaceful atmosphere for visitors and worshippers.

Nearby Attractions

Explore the vibrant neighborhood of Trastevere and discover the numerous attractions surrounding the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. While visiting the basilica, take the opportunity to explore the nearby attractions that will enhance your experience in Rome.

Rome Botanical Gardens: Just a short distance from the basilica, the Rome Botanical Gardens offer a serene oasis in the heart of the city. Take a leisurely stroll through the lush gardens and admire the diverse plants and flowers.

National Gallery of Art: Located nearby, the National Gallery of Art is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. Immerse yourself in the rich history of Italian art as you explore the galleries filled with masterpieces by renowned artists.

Vatican: A visit to Rome would only be complete with a trip to the Vatican. Marvel at the intricate architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica and explore the Vatican Museums, home to countless treasures and the famous Sistine Chapel.

Castel Sant’Angelo: Just a short walk from the basilica, Castel Sant’Angelo is a fortress-turned-museum that offers breathtaking views of Rome. Explore the ancient halls and learn about the castle’s fascinating history.

Whether you explore the Rome Botanical Gardens, visit the National Gallery of Art, or venture to the Vatican and Castel Sant’Angelo, these nearby attractions will enhance your visit to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere. Consider joining guided tours to maximize your time and gain deeper insights into these remarkable places.


In conclusion, Santa Maria in Trastevere is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Rome’s rich history and artistic beauty.

With its origins dating back to the 3rd century, this ancient basilica holds a significant place in the rise of Christianity.

Did you know Santa Maria in Trastevere has over 1,000 square meters of stunning ancient frescoes?

These captivating artworks provide a glimpse into the past and make this sacred space genuinely awe-inspiring.

How Old is Santa Maria in Trastevere?

Santa Maria in Trastevere is one of the oldest churches in Rome, with its foundation dating back to the 3rd century. However, the present building was completed in the 12th century.

What Makes Santa Maria in Trastevere Unique Compared to Other Churches?

Apart from being one of the oldest, Santa Maria in Trastevere is known for its stunning golden mosaics depicting biblical scenes. It’s also considered the first church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, making it a significant site for Marian devotion.

Where is Santa Maria in Trastevere Located?

The church is in the rione of Trastevere on Piazza di Santa Maria, on the west bank of the Tiber River in Rome, Italy.

Can Anyone Visit Santa Maria in Trastevere?

Yes, Santa Maria in Trastevere is open to worshippers and visitors wishing to admire its architecture and artwork. However, visitors are advised to respect the sanctity of the church, especially during mass services.

Are There Any Special Events or Festivals Held at Santa Maria in Trastevere?

Yes, several religious ceremonies and festivals are held at this church throughout the year, including Christmas and Easter celebrations. One notable event is “Festa de’ Noantri”, a festival held every July where a statue of the Virgin Mary is carried through the streets of Trastevere.

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