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There are many churches in Rome. All are different and all contain wonderful works of art. You can find works by Bernini, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Raphael in the various churches around the city. When in Rome you should stop in to see as many as you can. A few favorites are:
San Pietro in Vincoli- St. Peter in Chains church. This wonderful church holds Michelangelo's famous Moses statue. Moses is shown returning from Mt. Sinai with the stone tablets under his arms. If you look at his head you will see horns. This was believed to come from a mistranslation and Michelangelo put them on his statue as a sort of joke. This Church also houses the chains of St. Peter from when he was imprisoned in Rome and Jerusalem. They are displayed in a glass case under the alter.
San Clemente- is a multilevel church. The church that you see now was built over another church which was discovered to have been built over a Mithraic shrine. You can visit all three levels of this church. On the bottom level you can visit the Mithraic temple, the Mithraeum. On the second level you can visit the older church. Some of the frescoes are still visible. Find the one where the Centurion Sisinius is telling his men, "Fili delle pute, traite" (Transitional Latin becoming Italian).
Santa Maria in Cosmedin- This little 6th century church has a very plain facade and was built on and ancient food market. It has a beautiful Romanesque bell tower that was added in the 12th century. In the walls of the portico is the la Bocca della Verita - the Mouth of Truth. This was seen in the movie Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn. It is believed to be an ancient drain cover. Legend has it that if you put your hand in the mouth and tell a lie the jaws will snap shut!
Santa Maria Maggiore- This is the church that was built when Pope Liberius had a vision of the Virgin Mary telling him to build a church for her on the spot where it would snow. It snowed that summer and the Pope built the church. Every August the church holds a ceremony to re-enact this miracle. The inside has a beautiful coffered ceiling gilded with gold, allegedly given to the Pope by Ferdinand and Isabella after given to them by Columbus who brought it from the "new World". There are twin chapels facing each other called the cappella sistina and the cappella paolina. There is a sunken confessional that contains a case with a piece of the cradle of Jesus. This relic is one of the things this church is known for. A Latin High Mass with a full choir is celebrated there on Sundays.
Santa Maria Del Popolo- This church has wonderful paintings inside. In the Cerasi Chapel , to the left of the main alter, is the "Conversion of St. Paul" and the "Crucifixion of St. Peter" by Caravaggio. At the entrance to the Chigi Chapel is a pyramid shaped tomb by Raphael Sanzio. There are statues by Bernini in two of the four corners of the chapel (Chabakuk and David) and a skeleton, symbolizing resurrection to the right of the right hand door.
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva- This favorite church with the elephant obelisk in the front is a true Gothic church. The church dates back to the 13th century but has been updated many times since. The "Assumption" by Fra Filippimo Lippi is beautiful as is the statue of "Christ Bearing the Cross" which was begun by Michelangelo.
Santa Maria in Aracoeli- This is a wonderful church at the Campidoglio. You can reach it by going up the very steep stairs in the front of up the less steep stairs in the back. It has a beautiful ceiling, an incredible set of frescoes on the life of San Bernardino and a beautiful alter.
These are just some of the wonderful churches in Rome. Visit as many as you can because they all contain treasures. No matter how plain the facade you'll find the interior of the churches in Rome incredibly decorated and full of those "hidden treasures" everyone is always looking for. There are a few rules you will need to follow when visiting churches in Rome.
Dress code. You are asked to dress respectfully. This means your shoulders and knees must be covered. This applies to men and women, adults and children. Shorts are frowned upon, even if they are longer and you stand the chance of being turned away if you wear them. Get those pants with the zip off legs if you are visiting Rome in the summer. This way you can put the legs back on to visit the church and take them off when you are outside in the heat. If you wear a tank top or any other top without sleeves make sure to carry a scarf that you can drape across your shoulders. If wearing a T-shirt make sure there are no graphics or sayings that could be considered offensive. You may wear any shoes you wish but would suggest something good for walking, as the basilica is very large and all the floors are marble.
You shouldn't interupt. Make sure not to interrupt while a service is going on. You may not take pictures during a service. There will be signs at the door telling you whether flash photography is okay or not. You may take pictures but some churches don't allow flash. If you follow these few rules you will be able to visit all the wonderful churches Rome has to offer. Be aware that most of the churches in Rome will close for three hours from noon til 3. These hours may vary a bit depending on the church so check the hours carefully and plan that into your day if you plan to see particular churches at a particular time.