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St Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica, Rome

Categories: Sacred & Religious Sites, Historic Sites, Tourist Spots
Inspirock Rating:
4.6/5 based on 1,400+ reviews on the web
A feast for the eyes just a few steps from the Pantheon, St Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica features notable stained glass windows and Michelangelo’s famed statue of Christ the Redeemer. Completed in 1370, this is the city’s only surviving example of original Gothic church building. Behind a restrained Renaissance facade, the interior features arched vaulting, painted blue with gilded stars and trimmed with brilliant red ribbing in a 19th-century Neo-Gothic restoration. The site is a resting place of several popes from the Medici line, and includes the tomb of Fra Angelico, a renowned Renaissance painter. In front of the church, you can see one of the most curious monuments in the city, a statue by sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini of an elephant supporting an Egyptian obelisk. This is the shortest of the 11 obelisks still in existence in Rome. Using our custom trip planner, Rome attractions like St Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica can form part of a personalized travel itinerary.
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  • Bernini's elephant holds one to the linger on. The views of a nondescript Church falls on the occasion. Curious, entering the church you are surprised again by an exceptional splendor. After the artworks have had on one and it has been committed, you can come to rest very well and hanging over his thoughts.
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  • The Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva is a splendid basilica richly decorated inside. The façade is very simple but inside holds the remains of Saint Catherine of Siena and Fra Angelico. Beautiful hardwood floors and richly decorated Vault
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  • Beautiful Basilica right across our Grand Hotel de la Minerve. On the Plaza della Minerva at the historic center of Rome 
  • The only original Gothic church in Rome. But what makes thousands of tourists flock to it is Michelangelo's Cristo della Minerva. The interior is wonderful. It is home to one of Rome's eleven Egyptian obelisks but what makes it truly special is its elephant base. A touch of genius by Bernini!!
  • Wonderful art, and definitely worth stopping in if you're in the area
  • A great church that a few people go. You can find a mirror inside on the ground to help you better watch the paintings on the top.
  • Very quiet and dark church, it's almost spooky! Worth visiting!
  • The only Gothic church in Rome, the Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Basilica of St. Mary over Minerva) is so named because it was built directly on the foundations of a temple to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom. The basilica that stands today was begun in 1280. Architectural changes and redecorations in the 1500s and 1900s stripped it of some of its magnificence, but it still includes an awe-inspiring collection of medieval and Renaissance tombs. Just behind the Pantheon is the Piazza della Minerva, whose focal point is an endearing sculpture of a cheery baby elephant carrying a small Egyptian obelisk on his back. It was sculpted by Bernini in 1667. It is said to represent Pope Alexander VII's reign and illustrate the moral that strength should support wisdom. The Egyptian obelisk is much older - it was found in the ruins of a temple of Isis that once stood nearby. Nothing visible remains of the Temple of Minerva (or Isis) over which the present church was built, but some Roman remains are visible in the crypt. Santa Maria sopra Minerva has a remarkably plain facade (17th-century), with three small portrals and three round windows. This belies the richness and size of the interior beyond. Inside, the viewer's eye is immediately drawn to the arched vaulting, painted blue with gilded stars and accented with brilliant red ribbing. The former is a 19th century restoration in the Gothic style. To the left of the apse is a muscular Christ Bearing the Cross, carved by Michelangelo for the church in 1521. The bronze drapery covering Christ's nakedness was added later. Saint Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), patroness of Europe, is buried under the altar (except her head, which is in Siena). The tomb includes an effigy of the virgin saint sculpted in 1430 by Isaia of Pisa. Beyond the sacristy is the very room where St. Catherine died - sort of. She died in a house on a nearby street and the room was reconstructed here by Cardinal Antonio Barberini in 1637. This was the first transplanted interior and the progenitor of familiar 19th- and 20th-century museum "period rooms." The great monastic painter Fra Angelico died in the adjoining Dominican monastery and is buried in the Frangipane Chapel to the left of the altar choir. His tomb features an inset effigy of the artist in repose but with eyes open, also by Isaia of Pisa. Fra Angelico's painting of the Virgin and Child hangs over the chapel altar.
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