A block from where we’re staying in Rome is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever seen. Basilica of Saint Mary of Minerva, aka Santa Maria sopra Minerva (sopra is over in Italian) is the only medieval church in Rome that still maintains it’s original gothic architecture, instead of being transformed into Baroque-style.
The church was built over the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis, but was erroneously translated to Greco-Roman goddess Minerva. And the name stuck.
Many different structures have sat at this site, documented as far back as 50 BC. The current basilica was started in 1280 by the Dominicans (also known as The Order of Preachers), after the Friars took possession in 1275.
The artwork inside is incredible. The frescoes alone are worth seeing, but there’s also Michelangelo’s sculpture, Christ the Redeemer.
The basilica contains many tombs, including previous Popes and the the Dominican painter Fra Angelico. The grandest tomb is at the alter, the tomb of St Catherine of Siena. Her head, however, is in the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena. It was detached and mummified at the request of Pope Urbano VI.
The Basilica of Saint Mary of Minerva is just around the corner from the Pantheon and absolutely worth the visit. Despite is grandeur and history, there is barely a crowd every time we walk by.