Under the starry vaults of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
In Rome, there is a gothic church – the only one in the Italian capital city, except for the famous back of Trinità dei Monti – known as Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Saint Mary above Minerva). Its blue, star-studded vault ceilings are some of the most evocative details in Rome’s architectural heritage.
Built in an ancient sacred area dating back to the Roman age (which included an “Isèum” temple dedicated to Isis, a “Serapèum” temple dedicated to Serapide, and a “Minervium” temple dedicated to Minerva Calcidica – recently found in today’s Piazza del Collegio Romano), the grand gothic structure is a stone’s throw from the Pantheon. Construction began in 1280, over a small 8th-century oratory dedicated to Mary, which Pope Zachary had give the Basilian nuns fleeing persecution in Constantinople during the Iconoclastic Controversy.
Used for worship since the mid-1300s, Santa Maria sopra Minerva saw wonderful paintings added to its vault ceilings in the last thirty years of the 15th century, by will of Cardinal Juan de Torquemada, uncle of the famous inquisitor.
Under this gothic, starry sky now lay the mortal remains of holy figures like Saint Catherine of Siena (in a showcase under the major altar) and Fra Angelico; but you will also be able to admire frescoes by Melozzo da Forlì and Filippino Lippi, and Michelangelo’s “Risen Christ”.