Rome boasts over 900 churches and visiting them isn’t a new concept invented by tourists. The Seven Pilgrimage Church of Rome tour dates to 1552. Filippo Neri led six or seven people on the first tour while around 6000 people did the tour a decade later.
For many, the most obvious churches to visit are St Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon. The latter is a must-see destination for fans of Dan Brown’s thriller, Angels and Demons. This pagan structure dates to around 118 AD and later became a Catholic church. It boasts the single largest unreinforced dome in the world.
But what if you want something a little different from your ecclesiastical tour? Here are five awesome churches to visit next time you’re in Rome.
1. San Sebastiano fuori le mura (St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls)
St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls lies outside the Aurelian walls, hence the name. It lost its position in the Seven Pilgrimages list in 2000. Pope John Paul II swapped it for the shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love.
This 4th-century church stands over the catacombs where devotees interred St. Sebastian. The Emperor sentenced him to death in the 3rd century for his Christianity. He survived the first ordeal, execution by archery. The Emperor’s men bludgeoned him to death instead.
Sts. Peter and Paul lay in the catacombs too. Followers moved their remains to their respective basilicas. Scholars argue over the final resting place of St. Sebastian’s remains. Some say he’s now in St. Peter’s Basilica where he has a chapel, but others think he’s still in the catacombs. Visit the catacombs and see for yourself.
Saracens destroyed the original church in 846 AD. This version dates to the 13th century but suffered extensive damage during the Sack of Rome in 1527. Remodeling work in the 16th century explains its Baroque appearance.