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Rome: Churches of the Roman Forum

About the Forum:

The Roman Forum has long been known as the market place of Ancient Rome.

Most of the ruins you see here are pagan monuments or temples that date from from around 27 B.C. to 476 A.D. It is also, however, home to several churches dating back to the 6th Century.

Here are the five Churches of the Roman Forum, plus one prison:

1. The Church of Santa Maria Antiqua:  Also called Old Saint Mary’s, this is the oldest church in the Forum. What was once the entry way erected by the Emperor Domitian to the imperial palace overhead, became a Church in the late Fifth Century. The church contains a unique collection of wall paintings spanning a period (6th to late 8th century) that is un-equalled in Rome (see gallery above) and elsewhere; they are of utmost importance for an understanding of the development of early medieval and Byzantine churches.

Abandoned in the 9th Century, it was largely forgotten until it was re-discovered in 1900. It then fell into disrepair during the later half of the 20th Century , but was restored through the efforts of the World Monuments Fund and re-opened to the public in 2015.

Click here for the official website of Santa Maria Antiqua (in English).

2. Another church of note is San Sebastiano al Palatino. This is a very small church located along a small lane in the Forum, just off the Via Sacre, the main street of the Forum. It is dedicated to Saint Sebastian, the late-third-century Christian martyr under the reign of Diocletian.

According to tradition, the church was built on the site of the saint’s “first” martyrdom with arrows, which proved unsuccessful. The archers left him for dead, but a Christian widow (Saint Irene) and nursed him back to health.  Many paintings have as their subject “Saint Sebastian Tended by Saint Irene”.

He then presented himself before Diocletian, who condemned him to death by beating. His body, thrown into a sewer, was found by another pious woman, who dreamed that Sebastian told her to bury his remains near the catacombs. His relics are believed to be here in the Basilica of San Sebastiano.

We celebrate the Feast of Saint Sebastian on January 20.

There is no official website for the church.

Ricardo André Frantz (User:Tetraktys) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]
3.   As you go out to the Via Sacra you come to the Basilica of Saints Cosmas and Damian, built by Pope Felix IV in 527 AD.  These third century saints, believed to be brothers,  converts to Christianity, were physicians who practiced medicine in the Roman province of Syria without charging people, which resulted in them being called “the holy unmercenaries”.  In Greek, the Anargyroi (without silver).

They were martyred under the reign of the Emperor Diocletian.

There are many beautiful mosaics here, especially in the Apse of the Church (as shown):  in the middle is Christ, with Saint Peter presenting Saint Cosmas and Saint Theodorus (right), and Saint Paul presenting Saint Damian and Pope Felix IV (who is shown holding a model of the church).

The Feast of Saints Cosmas and Damian is celebrated on September 26.

They normally have morning Mass daily, but call first to be certain, +39 (06) 692-0441.

Click here for the official website of the Basilica of Saints Cosmas & Damian in Rome.

4. Founded by Blessed Bonaventure of Barcelona, whose body lies here, the Convent of San Bonaventura al Palatino is surrounded by Stations of the Cross, in recognition of the fact that Blessed Leonoardo is the originator of the devotion to the Stations of the Cross. Retreats are offered here.

5. At the Eastern end of the Forum you will find the Church of Saint Frances of Rome (Santa Francesca Romana). Although built in the ninth Century, it did not get its current name until 1608, when Pope Paul V canonized Saint Frances of Rome, who had died in April, 1440. She was the first Benedictine Lay Oblate and her body lies under the main altar.

There is no official website for the church

6. Mamertine Prison, under the Church of Saint Joseph of the Carpenters (located just adjacent to the Forum). The prison in which Saints Peter and Paul were held before their executions.

Click here for our page describing the Mamertine Prison.

Photo credits: Wikipedia commons.

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