Home » Destinations » Italy » Rome: A Catholic’s Guide to Rome, the “Eternal City” » Rome: Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite (English Church in Rome)

Rome: Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite (English Church in Rome)


About the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite:

Basilica of San Silvestro in Rome
LPLT [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
The Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite (Saint Sylvester)  minor basilica and titular church in Rome dedicated to Pope Sylvester I.  Built in the 8th century as a shrine for the relics of the saints and martyrs from the Catacombs, the church is the national church of Great Britain. The Latin words “in capite” refers to the canonical title of Pope Sylvester the First, to which in capite means in First, in Chief, or in Head.

The church of San Silvestro was granted to the English Catholics by Pope Leo XIII in 1890 and is the National Church in Rome of Great Britain. and is now served by Irish Pallottine Fathers. Mass is thus regularly celebrated in the English language.

The basilica is also famous for a relic, a fragment of a head purported to be that of John the Baptist, kept in a chapel to the left of the entrance.

In addition, the church contains the relics of three Popes:  Pope Stephen I (254-257 AD), Pope Dionysius (259-268 AD) and Pope Sylvester I (314-335 AD) after whom the church is named .  Their bodies were exhumed and re-enshrined beneath the high altar when the new church was consecrated in 1601 .

The church also contains the relics of Saint Tarcisius, a young martyr of the Eucharist.  There are some who feel that this is the martyr of the Eucharist mentioned in the prophecies of Garabandal.


About Saint Tarcisius (263-257 AD):

During the persecutions of Christians under the Emperor Valerian, a group of imprisoned Christians sent a message to their community requesting to receive Holy Communion one last time before their execution.  Tarcisius, who was merely a boy, volunteered to carry the consecrated hosts to the prisoners as it was not safe for the clergy to visit those in prison. St. Tarcisius assumed that his young age would prevent any suspicion, but that proved not to be the case.. They tried to prize it away from him, but in vain; the struggle became ever fiercer, especially when they realized that Tarcisius was a Christian; They kicked him, they threw stones at him, but he did not surrender. While Tarcisius was dying a Pretoria guard called Quadratus, who had also, secretly, become a Christian, carried him to the priest. Tarcisius was already dead when they arrived but was still clutching to his breast a small linen bag containing the Eucharist.  He is patron saint of altar boys.

He was originally buried in the Catacombs of St Calixtus. Pope Damasus (366-384) had an inscription carved on St Tarcisius’ grave; it says that the boy died in 257. We celebrate his Feast Day on August 15.

There some who believe that he is the young martyr of the Eucharist mentioned in the prophecies of Garabandal, although his feast day does not fit the information given to the visionaries.

Finding  the Church of San Silvestro in Capite:

The church is located next to the main post office in Rome.  The entrance is on the Piazza San Silvestro and on the exterior are statues of San Silvestro, Saint Stephen, Saint Clare and Saint Francis.  There is a lovely courtyard as you enter in to the church.

Address:  Piazza di San Silvestro, 17A, 00100 Rome, Italy

Tel:  +39 06 697 7121     Fax: +39 06-697 99740

Email: sansilvestro17@gmail.com

Click here for the official website of the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite (in Italian, with English option).

⇐ Back to Catholic shrines & places of interest in Rome