A Guide For The Pilgrim in Rome
The oldest Christian church to be found in Rome, Santa Maria in Trastevere, is located within this region. Historical documents show that this church traces its history back to a house church founded by Pope St Callistus I in 220 AD and that the foundation for the present church was constructed in the 340s. At the base of the sanctuary in this church an even older tradition is remembered by a memorial marker that says in Latin ‘Fons Olei’ which translated to English means ‘Oil Fountain.’ Tradition holds that at this very spot for one entire day in the year 38 BC a fountain of oil gushed out from the ground. Its flow was so intense that a small river was created that reached all the way to the Tiber River. Later Christians saw this as a sign that foreshadowed the coming of Christ.
Begin your route at the beautiful little church of Santa Maria della Scala on the north end of Trastevere. From here follow the narrow and twisting streets south until you reach Santa Maria in Trastevere. After an ample visit at this historic church continue southeast along Via di San Francesco a Ripa until you reach the church of San Francesco d’Assisi a Ripa. After a brief visit in this church head north-east along Via della Luce to Santa Cecilia in Trastevere. On this part of the route the streets widen and the buildings lose their appeal; however, once you reach the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere you will be pleasantly rewarded with one of the most beautiful churches in all of Rome. After visiting this church head north-west on Via dei Genovesi until you reach the church of San Crisogono. From here walk along the busy Viale di Trastevere in the direction of the Tiber River. Upon reaching the river turn right and continue in this direction until you reach Tiber Island. The final church of this walk, San Bartolomeo all’Isola, will be on your right as you enter the island. Finally the church of San Pancrazio, which is not listed on this route, is also worthy of a visit and is located just one mile to the west of this route.
The following churches are listed according to the order of the suggested route. The total distance is about 1.5 miles. To walk will probably take about 3 hours when one stops at each of the churches. The churches are generally open from 7AM-1PM and from 4PM-7PM.
Santa Maria della Scala
(Our Lady at the Steps)
Piazza della Scala 23
*The right foot of St Teresa of Avila (d. 1582) rests within this church in a beautiful chapel to the left of the main sanctuary. It was gifted to this church in 1617. (This chapel is not visible from the nave of the church and it is rarely open to the public. However, if one kindly asks the sacristan access may be granted. If the sacristan is not present he or she can be called at the neighboring convent door.)
*A miraculous image of the Blessed Virgin Mary entitled Madonna della Scala is also venerated in the left transept.
Santa Maria in Trastevere
(Our Lady in Trastevere)
Via della Paglia 14 / Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere
*This church is dedicated to the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary. A painting of the Assumption by Domenico Zampieri can be seen in the middle of the coffered wooden ceiling.
*Relics of the two popes St Callistus I (d. 222) and St Cornelius (d. 253) rest under the main altar of this church. These relics are joined by others in particular those of the priest and martyr St Calepodius (d. 232).
San Francesco d'Assisi a Ripa
(Saint Francis of Assisi in Ripa)
Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi 88
*St Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) stayed within a room in this church during a visit to Rome. Within this room is a stone that is said to have been used by him as a pillow.
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere
(Saint Cecilia in Trastevere)
Piazza di Santa Cecilia 22
*This church is built over the ruins of the house that St Cecilia had lived in prior to her martyrdom.
*In 821 the body of St Cecilia was exhumed from the Catacombs of San Callisto by Pope St Paschal I (d. 824) and returned to this church. Today her remains rest within the crypt under the main altar.
*The recumbent statue of St Cecilia below the main altar was completed by Stefano Maderno in the late 16th century. A gash on her neck recalls the miraculous events surrounding her martyrdom. Tradition claims that St Cecilia was condemned to execution first by drowning and then by decapitation. Both attempts failed. The second method, however, left her greatly wounded. The executioner struck her neck three times with a sword but being unable to sever her head fled in fear. She survived for three days, offered all she had to the poor, and then expired.
Piazza Sonnino 44
*Part of the skull of St Chrysogonus, a Roman martyr, rests beneath the main altar of this church. Also within a side chapel are the remains of Blessed Anne Marie Taigi (d. 1837).
San Bartolomeo all'Isola
(Saint Bartholomew on the Island)
Piazza San Bartolomeo, Tiber Island
*The Holy Roman Emperor, Otto III, began building San Bartolomeo all’Isola in 998 to honor his friend St Adalbert (d. 997) who had been recently martyred. An arm of St Adalbert is currently enshrined in the chapel to the left of the main sanctuary. It rests within a little metal box placed under the altar of this chapel.
*Relics of the apostle, St Bartholomew, rest within the red porphyry basin that supports the main altar.
*Enshrined in each of the side altars are relics of recent martyrs from around the world.
*This church also housed the relics of St Paulinus of Nola (d. 431) for about 1000 years until they were transferred to the Italian city of Nola in 1909.
Piazza San Pancrazio 5/D
*This church is west of Trastevere and borders the Villa Doria Pamphili Park. It was built on the site of St Pancras’ tomb.
*In 1798 a general under Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Rome and established the Roman Republic. During this time intruders entered the church of San Pancrazio and severely damaged the remains of St Pancras. His head, which was kept in the Basilica of St John Lateran from 850 to 1966, fortunately was left untouched. In 1966 Pope Paul VI returned this relic to San Pancrazio. It now rests within a reliquary bust on the right side of the nave.
*Additionally, a few relics of St Pancras and other early church martyrs are said to rest within the porphyry urn that makes up the base of the altar in the main sanctuary.