Basilica di Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

Basilica 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 drawcard 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. This wasn't part of the original composition and was added after the Council of Trent (1545–63) to preserve Christ's modesty.

An altarpiece of the Madonna and Child in the second chapel in the northern transept is attributed to Fra' Angelico, the Dominican friar and painter, who is also buried in the church.

The body of St Catherine of Siena, minus her head (which is in Siena), lies under the high altar, and the tombs of two Medici popes, Leo X and Clement VII, are in the apse.


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