7 Pilgrim Churches of Rome

Upon arrival in Rome from Via Francesco or Via Francigena, there remains one last pilgrimage for those wanting more. Or of course you can just use public transportation or a taxi if you prefer.

The 7 Pilgrimage Churches of Rome was initiated by Philip Neri, The Second Apostle of Rome, around 1553.

The Forum at sunrise

The walk is at keast 20K but I added two of my favorite churches to make 9. First though the official 7:

1. St. Peter’s Basilica impressive in its vastness but of course the highlight is Michelangelo’s Pieta. 17th century.

Michelangelo’s Pieta
Inside St. Peter’s
St. Peter with the keys to heaven

2. Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, dedicated to Mother Mary, is also incredibly spacious and magnificent with supposedly a fragment of the manger from Bethlehem in the crypt. The 36 inner columns are cut from single blocks of stone.

Santa Maria Maggiore
The altar and entrance to crypt
Pope Pius IX in crypt

3. San Lorenzo Basilica was probably the least impressive but interesting for parts were built between 4th and 7th centuries. And you have to like his story; In the third century Pope Sixtus ordered Lorenzo, his treasurer, to sell the riches of the church and give to the poor. Emperor Valerian had him arrested and ordered him to give up the Church’s treasures. Lorenzo complied by bringing a group of paupers and beggars. Valerian had Lorenzo whipped and roasted to death over hot coals.

4. Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. In 327, the mother of Emperor Constantine, went to Palestine to build Christian Churches at Holy sites. According to tradition, she had a Temple to Venus at the site of Jesus’ tomb and found 3 crosses. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built on the site and a significant section of Jesus’ cross was brought back by Helen to Rome as the Centerpiece of this Church dating to the 4th Century. Wow!

The cross of Jesus on the left. Also nails from the crucifixion, the INRI script nailed on the cross above Jesus, and thorns from Jesus’ crown.

5. Basilica of St. John Lateran is built on the site of Rome’s first Christian church dating back to 324, and is still the actual cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. For St. Francis fans this is where Francesco met Pope Innocent III to ask approval for his new Order. In a dream Innocent saw Francis holding up the pillars of the Lateran Church to keep it from falling and consequently approved the Franciscan Order.

St. John Lateran with statues of all the Apostles leading to the altar
Romanesque Mary and Jesus
Interesting depiction of St. James (Santiago)

6. Basilica of St. Sebastian is on the Appian Way and near the Catacombs which are worth seeing. Sebastian was a nobleman and Roman Army Officer that smuggled Christians into hiding. Upon learning of his conversion, Emperor Valerian had him executed and thrown in the sewer.

Appian Way

7. Basilica of St. Paul. Emperor Constantine had a church built outside Rome where Paul was beheaded. He than had Paul’s remains brought from the Catacombs here. It is massive and impressive.

Mosaics in St. Paul’s

This walk is at least 20K but passes other churches and sites. Why not add a few to your pilgrimage. I chose 2 optional sites.

1. Santa Maria di Monti because it holds the tomb of San Benoit who died in the streets of Rome helping the destitute. Benoit was born in Amettes, France on the Via Francigena Canterbury to Rome Pilgrimage. He is said to have walked over 30,000 kilometers on pilgrimages throughout Europe including Santiago de Compostela. For me, he was the spirit of the Via Francigena, and a kindred one at that.

Kindred spirit San Benoit

2. The Basilica of St. Peter in Chains is most famous for housing Michelangelo’s Moses but seeing the chains that supposedly bound Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem is powerful as well.

Michelangelo’s Moses
Chains of St. Peter

Both these churches are near the Colisseum on the way to Santa Maria Maggiore.

Back to St. Peters
Keys to Heaven and Earth
St. Peters

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Happy to answer any questions and help in any way.