Rome: The Basilica of Saint Bartholomew
One of the more interesting Churches in Rome (and one we highly recommend) lies on an island in the Tiber River. This was actually one of the first areas of Rome to be inhabited and during the time of the Roman Empire contained a temple to the God Aesculapius. After the fall of the Empire, it lay in ruins until the year 997 A.D., when the Basilica was built by the German Emperor Otto III to honor two saints: Saint Bartholomew the Apostle and the martyr Adalbert.
The Basilica of Saint Bartholomew contains many works of art, including the high altar made from a basin that dates back to the time of the Roman Empire. But then, there are many churches in Rome with beautiful works of art…..so, what makes this one so special?
Well, in addition to the two martyrs mentioned above, it contains items related to recent martyrs for the Faith.
In 1999 Pope John Paul II established a commission “New Martyrs“, which was to investigate the Christian martyrs of the twentieth century and it was dedicated by him in 2000. And it is this that makes it one of Rome’s most unique churches.
Although we often hear of the early martyrs, there is no doubt that the past century has witnessed hundred of thousands of Martyrs for the faith. And, unfortunately, that list continues to grow daily.
There are six chapels dedicated to these martyrs: four geographical locations throughout the world plus two historical chapels: one dedicated to those killed during the Nazi regime, and one to those martyred under Communism.
The Basilica contains many articles of these modern-day martyrs of the Catholic Church, some of which are shown in the photos above. Among them are some relics relating to Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish priest killed by the Communist authorities in 1984 and Cardinal Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, shot by members of a Mexican drug cartel in 1993
You cannot help but be moved, inspired or saddened (perhaps all three) as you venture through the church. It is a reminder that many have suffered and died for their faith in the 20th Century, and continue to do so in the 21st Century even as you read this page.
The Memorial of the New Martyrs is taken care of by the Community of Sant’Egidio, who also painted the icon on the main altar.
And the body of Saint Bartholomew lies under the main altar.
The community is also involved in ecumenical activities in the Basilica.
Finding the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew:
For help finding your way around, we suggest the “Little Black Book of Rome” It is organized by location rather than alphabetically like so many guide books. And we also suggest you carry a “Streetwise Map of Rome” for easy navigating.
Address: Piazza di San Bartolomeo all’Isola, 22, 00186 Roma, Italy
GPS coordinates: 41° 53′ 25.1988” N, 12° 28′ 41.5596” E
Tel: + 39 06/6877973
Click here for the official website of the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew in Rome
Photos courtesy Roberto Bortone