Christian Rome

Rome's significance for Christians the world over is just one of the city's many layers of culture and history. It is full of very special churches. The Church of Santa Maria Antiqua is the oldest church in the Forum, and the nearby Church of San Pietro in Carcere is on the site of the Mammertime Prison, where St Peter is believed to have been imprisoned and to have created a miraculous stream of baptismal water. On the Aventine Hill, a beautiful yet marginally less visited spot, the 5th-century Church of Santa Sabina has lovely carved wooden doors. Santa Maria Maggiore dates from the 5th century but has a Baroque façade and Romanesque bell tower. San Giovanni in Laterano is Rome's cathedral and home to the preserved heads of SS Peter & Paul. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme dates from the 4th century but was remodelled in the Baroque style; it contains what are thought to be fragments of the true cross. Santa Maria in Cosmedin is one of the finest medieval churches in Rome, and is also famous for the Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), an ancient Triton mask set into an exterior wall. Legend has it that if you put your right hand into the mouth while telling a lie, it will snap shut. San Clemente defines just how stratified the city's history is. The 12th-century church at street level was built over a 4th-century church, which was in turn built over a Roman house containing a temple to Mithras, and the foundations are believed to date from the time of the Republic.