Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome

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Map of Giacomo Lauro and Antonio Tempesta dating to 1599 depicting the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome with San Pietro in Vaticano in the foreground, used for the Holy Year of 1600.

The Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome are seven ancient and major churches in Rome, central to a religious pilgrimage to the city. They are listed in the following order in the guide by Franzini (1595): San Giovanni Laterano, St Peter's, San Paolo fuori le mura, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Lorenzo fuori le mura, San Sebastiano, and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.[1] Giovanni Baglione in his book list nine major churches of Rome, adding somewhat peculiarly the church of Santa Maria Annunziata dei Gonfalone and the trio of churches known once as alle Tre Fontane, and located at the site of St Paul's martyrdom: Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio alle Tre Fontane, Santa Maria Scala Coeli and San Paolo alle Tre Fontane.[2]


Rome has for centuries been a beacon for travelers. As the home of the Pope and the Catholic curia, as well as the locus of a many sites and relics of veneration related to apostles, saints and Christian martyrs; Rome had long been a destination for pilgrims. Periodically, some were propelled to travel to Rome from the spiritual benefits, including indulgences accrued through a papally sanctioned Jubilee. These indulgences required a visit to specific churches.

The churches include the four patriarchal basilicas:

They also include two minor basilicas and a shrine:

The last of these was added by Pope Saint John Paul II for the Great Jubilee of 2000, replacing St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls. However, many pilgrims still prefer the pre-2000 seven basilicas and so also attend St. Sebastian's in addition to the ones required for the indulgence.

During Holy Years, indulgences are granted to those who visit certain churches. In Rome, there are seven such churches. This tradition is related to the work of St. Philip Neri, who devoted much of his time to helping pilgrims and introduced a list of seven basilicas.

Classic Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome
SanPietroFacciata-SteO153.jpg Facade San Giovanni in Laterano 2006-09-07.jpg Roma San Paolo fuori le mura BW 1.JPG Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore - 8.jpg San Lorenzo fuori le mura - facade.jpg 213SCroceInGerusalemme.JPG Appia-SanSebastiano-019.JPG
S. Pietro
S. Giovanni in Laterano
S. Paolo fuori le Mura
S. Maria Maggiore
S. Lorenzo fuori le Mura
S. Croce in Gerusalemme
S. Sebastiano

Guidebooks to Rome[edit]

Initially guidebooks to Rome focused on the religious sites. While these continued to have importance, by the 18th century, the storied history as well as its envied possession of troves of treasures of Italian art, also drew cultural pilgrims on a Grand Tour of Europe that almost always included Rome. Early proponents included Richard Lassels in his 1670 book on a Voyage to Italy. Cultural travels today fall under the concept of Tourism. Guidebooks had existed since Ancient times; for example; the periplus, or the narrative "sailing around treatise, describing ports or landing sites, and distances between them. There was a description of the Roman Empire, written in verse by Dionysius Periegetes. In addition, there were written guides describing how to visit sites in the Holy Land, as far back as the fourth century (see Itinerarium Burdigalense).

Christian Rome, however, had served also as an independent goal for pilgrims and travellers. The first such guidebooks for Medieval Rome, and among the first such guidebooks in Europe, were compiled in the 12th century to address the need of travelers to Rome. They serve to map out a city full of monumental buildings and churches, and which for centuries has been in flux, burying and uncovering, razing and either rebuilding or constructing anew. Some of the guides were written by local residents; others by transient visitors, with the latter falling into the spectrum of Travel literature rather than Guide book. There are general trends to the guides, which mirror changes in society: guides prior to the mid-18th century are intended for those on religious pilgrimage, while those afterward include guides for those with a cultural interest in antiquity and art, while maintaining a distance from focus on devotional aspects.

Finally, as the interest in the possession of Vedute of ancient monuments and cityscapes increased; both paintings and collections of engravings, for example, Vasi's and Piranesi's 18th century etchings, also added to sources of information (or recollection) of the geography of place across time. Modern guidebooks arise with nineteenth century cosmopolitan firms and publishers attentive to travelers, such as Baedeker, John Murray's Blue Guides, and Michelin Guide.

These writings now serve a role in scholarship about the history of Rome, present and past. Among the pre-modern guides or itineraries to Rome, are:


  1. ^ *Franzini, Girolamo (1595). Le cose Maravigliose dell'alma citta de Roma. Guglielmo Facciotto, Rome. 
  2. ^ The nine churches of Rome (Le nove chiese di Roma, Giovanni Baglione, 1639)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]