Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Sculptures by Michelangelo and Bernini, the bodies of Fra' Angelico and St. Catherine, and the tombs of two Medici popes—so why isn't this church right behind the Pantheon more famous?
Piazza della Minerva 42
Open Mon–Sat 7:10am–7pm, Sun 8am–noon and 2–7pm
Santa Maria sopra Minerva tours
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The elephant statue by Bernini outside the church.Rome's only Gothic church was built in 1280 over the site of a Temple to Minerva (hence the name, "St. Mary over Minerva").
The piazza out front sports a whimsical statute by Bernini of a baby elephant carrying a miniature Egyptian obelisk on its back (1667).
The interior was heavily restored in the 19th century, and contains some masterpieces by Tuscan Renaissance artists and the bodies of important Tuscan Renaissance personalities.
Frescoes by Filippino Lippi.The last chapel on the right retains a sumptuous cycle of frescoes by Filippino Lippi (coin-op lights).
In the scene of St. Thomas Condemning the Heretics on the lower half of the chapel's right wall, the two boys in the group on the right are portraits of Giovanni de' Medici and Giulio de' Medici.
These two would grow up to become Popes Leo X and Clement VII, respectively, and are buried in the apse in tombs by Antonio Sangallo the Younger.
Under the altar lies the body of the pious medieval activist and Dominican nun St. Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), a skilled theologian and diplomat whose letters and visits were instrumental in returning the papacy from Avignon to Rome.
Michelangelo's Risen Christ.To the left of the altar steps is Michelangelo's muscular Risen Christ (1514–21), leaning nonchalantly on a diminutive Cross (such a strong, virile, and quite naked Christ wasn't to everyone's taste, and the church later added a sweep of bronze drapery to cover the Lord's loins).
In a corridor to the left of the choir, behind a small fence, is the tomb slab of the early Renaissance master and devout monk Fra' Angelico, who died in the attached convent in 1455.
Pope Nicholas V, who had commissioned a Vatican chapel from the painter 10 years earlier and was touched by the little monk's piety, modesty, and skill, wrote the epitaph himself.
- Planning your day: You can see the church in about 20 minutes.
- Mass: You can attend services at Santa Maria sopra Minerva Monday to Fridays at 8:15am and 6pm; Saturdays at 6pm; Sundays at 10am, 11am, noon, and 6pm.
- Take a tour: If you prefer a private guided tour that includes a visit to Santa Maria sopra Minerva, book one via our partners at Context Travel:
- Churches in Rome
- A Michelangelo tour of Rome
- A Bernini tour of Rome
- More sights in the Upper TIber Bend
- Sights in the nearby Lower Tiber Bend
This material was last updated April 2013. All information was accurate at the time.
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