Our favorite churches are located everywhere in Italy, from illustrious Roman squares to the most obscure country valley
Our Favorite Churches in Italy
Cathedrals, Parish Churches, Basilicas and Temples
[Regions of Italy]
Everyone remembers the first time they saw a church in Italy. Mine was in a tiny Calabrian village many many years ago. Alright, I have to admit the minuscule parish church in a town of 150 residents, open only for major Catholic holidays and for weddings, funerals and baptisms, didn't make an everlasting impression on me. The two things I found most amazing actually had nothing to do with any architect or painter. The first was the flash of white socks that appeared beneath the groom's black trousers when he knelt before the altar (I didn't know southern Italy very well back in those days). The second was the dull clunk of the five-lira coins that the black-shrouded ladies dropped into the collection plate. Have you ever seen a five-lira coin? They don't exist any longer, and when they did they had the look and weight of a cereal box surprise. Even in those days they were rare, and worthless, except to these devout grandmothers for whom they represented a substantial portion of the annual family income, which hovered in the vicinity of $200. Every one of them dropped a flimsy coin in the basket, unintentionally shaming me, the Rich American, who hadn't even thought to bring a purse to this humble ceremony.
||That was my first Italian church, and though I remember not one detail about the style, the frescoes, the altarpiece, the flooring or the paintings, I will never forget the experience. In this respect, the little Calabrian chapel taught me one of the most invaluable lessons of my life: no matter how illustrious a place of worship is, how rich its sponsors were, how renowned its artists were, it really exists for the worshippers. As tourists we are always intruders unless we remember this special equilibrium. If we do, all the splendid works of art will suddenly make sense. We will share the emotions of the artists and the humble parishioners and we will become part of the unique experience that is the majestic Italian church.
by Kristin Jarratt
- Before you venture into the fascinating (and highly addictive!) world of Italian church worship, we suggest you read Cynthia Lambakis' primer of styles.
- Undoubtedly the most extravagant form of church architecture in Italy is the Baroque. What would Rome be without its seventeenth-century masterpieces? But Rome does not have an exclusive. This month Sims Brannon invites us to Lecce, where he's been Going For Baroque in Southern Italy.
- Located only an hour's train ride from Rome, the exquisite little town of Orvieto is home to one of the great masterpieces of Italian art, the Duomo di Orvieto. Join us on a virtual tour.
- The Catholic Church has always had a weakness for relics of the saints. You'll see them everywhere in Rome.
- Not all our favorite churches are world-famed celebrities. Some of the most beloved are perfectly happy to occupy modest corners of tiny towns all up and down the peninsula, like this church in Umbria.
- Not all the churches in Italy are used by the Holy Roman Church. Jacqueline Knight searched out a dozen of Italy's Other Churches.
- We can't stop ourselves when it comes to religious architecture! Here are Even More Churches we love.
- OK, if you really want to spend the next ten years visiting churches, then you need to add The Hidden Churches of Rome to your secret bag of tricks.