Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva


in Centro Storico

Built on the site of three pagan temples, including one dedicated to the goddess Minerva, the Dominican Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is Rome’s only Gothic church. However, little remains of the original 13th-century structure and these days the main draw is a minor Michelangelo sculpture and the magisterial, art-rich interior.

Inside, to the right of the altar in the Cappella Carafa (also called the Cappella della Annunciazione), you’ll find some superb 15th-century frescoes by Filipino Lippi and the majestic tomb of Pope Paul IV.

Left of the high altar is one of Michelangelo’s lesser-known sculptures, Cristo Risorto (Christ Bearing the Cross; 1520), depicting Jesus carrying a cross while wearing some jarring bronze drapery. The latter wasn't part of the original composition and was added after the Council of Trent (1545–63) to preserve Christ's modesty.

Behind the statue to the left, you'll find the tomb of Fra' Angelico, the Dominican friar and painter, who is one of several luminaries buried in the church. The body of St Catherine of Siena, minus her head (which is in Siena), lies under the high altar, while the tombs of two Medici popes, Leo X and Clement VII, are in the apse.