Nestled in a quiet corner of Trastevere's focal square, this is said to be the oldest church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Rome. In its original form, it dates from the early 3rd century, but a major 12th-century makeover saw the addition of a Romanesque bell tower and a glittering facade. The portico came later, added by Carlo Fontana in 1702. Inside, the 12th-century mosaics are the headline feature.
Look out for the six 13th-century mosaics by Pietro Cavallini illustrating the life of the Virgin (c 1291) and the painting known as the Madonna della Clemenza. While its author remains unknown, scholars believe the panel could have been produced between the 6th and the 8th century, which would make it one of the world’s oldest surviving Marian icons.
According to legend, the church stands on the spot where a fountain of oil miraculously sprang from the ground in 32 BCE. It incorporates 24 ancient Roman columns, some plundered from the Terme di Caracalla, and boasts a 17th-century wooden ceiling.
Tips and other practicalities
The Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere is located in the heart of the bustling Trastevere neighborhood and is open every day from 7:30am to 8:30pm. Access is free but it can get busy, so it’s best to visit early in the morning to avoid crowds.