Uniquely, this is the only Medieval Gothic church in Rome.
About the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Several minutes walk from the spectacular dome of the Pantheon is the rather less well known Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Now I am not a particular expert on the architecture of antiquity, however this church is well worth a visit and remains etched in my memory from my last trip to Rome in 2012.
A modest facade with little ornamentation hides one of Rome’s more surprising churches. While there are hundreds of ancient churches in Rome, many of them spectacular in their own right, the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is the only Gothic church in the city. Built on top of the ruined Temple of Minerva – the Roman goddess of wisdom – the current structure was began in 1280 and completed in 1370. The only real indication of the Gothic style that is visible, but barely, on the facade is the indication of typically Gothic rose windows. These are hidden behind an exterior layer of glass however and would be unnoticeable without looking specifically for them.
I admit I am being a little liberal with the truth in saying that this is the only Gothic church in Rome. There are a number of neo-Gothic churches built in the 1800s, and there is a ruined Gothic church on the Appian Way dating from the early 1300s – the San Nicola a Capo di Bove if anyone is interested in visiting it, I haven’t had the opportunity to. A number of Baroque additions were made to the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva at around 1600, however these were removed in the 19th century.
Within the church there are a number of notable works of art, the most famous probably being Michelangelo’s, Cristo Della Minerva – a carved statue of Christ that was subjected to a few Baroque-period additions, most significantly the bronze drapery. The memorial to Maria Raggi, attached to a column in the nave of the church, was created by Bernini in 1647. Architecturally, look out for the pointed arches in the church – typical of the Gothic style. As with any of the Roman churches, don’t forget to look up at the frescoes on the ceilings as you visit!
There is no charge to visit the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva.
Appropriate clothing should be worn: knees and shoulders should be covered for both men and women. There is no need for women to cover their hair.