Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva in Rome


The Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Chiesa di S. Maria sopra Minerva) is one of the main Gothic churches in Rome. It is located not far from Panthenon in the Place de Minerva. Despite the little eye-catching facade, the temple is one of the favorite places of tourists.

History of creation

The construction of the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva was started in 1280 by Florentine craftsmen, who took the style of Santa Maria Nuovo in Florence as a model for the future temple.

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva view

The temple was intended for the monks of the Dominican order.

The name “Saint Mary over Minerva” perfectly reflects the multistage nature of Roman architectural history.

The Christian church of 1370 was built on the site of a pagan temple, which was mistakenly attributed to the goddess Minerva.

Once on this place was the Champ de Mars and the temple of Minerva was erected by the emperor Pompey, then Greek monks settled here, and later the Dominicans.

Church inside

Santa Maria sopra Minerva inside

To the left of the altar is the famous work of Michelangelo "Christ at the Cross".

Initially, the great sculptor portrayed Christ naked, but the priests considered such naturalism excessive and ordered a bronze bandage on Jesus' thighs.

Michelangelo "Christ at the Cross"

The church also contains works:

  • Sangallo.
  • Romano.
  • tombs of several popes.
  • tomb of st. Catherine of Siena (1347–1380), who was the prophetess and spirit of the patroness of Italy, who persuaded the popes to return from the Avignon captivity.
tomb of st. Catherine of Siena

Of particular note is the Karafa Chapel, located to the right of the altar.

It is named after Inquisitor Pope Paul IV Karafa, the author of the Index of Forbidden Books.

chapel Karafa

The chapel is decorated with a harmonious balustrade and angels by Andrea Verrocchio.

Also here are the masterpieces of F. Lippi: "The Ascension of the Mother of God" and "The Apotheosis of Thomas Aquinas".

Bernini the elephant

In front of the church stands a marble elephant with an ancient Egyptian obelisk (6th century BC) on its back. After the conquest of Egypt by Caesar, the obelisk was brought to Rome and installed at the entrance to the temple of Isis on the Field of Mars. Then the trace of the obelisk was lost. In 1665, it was accidentally found by Dominican monks. Pope Alexander VII decided to erect a newfound monument at this church.

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Santa Maria sopra Minerva marble elephant

Bernini planned to make the base of the obelisk in the form of an elephant, but the architect Ferrata did not believe Bernini's calculations and, just in case, substituted a massive block under the belly of the elephant, covering it with a blanket on top. Seeing this, Bernini was so angry that he wanted to give up the authorship.

On the pedestal is a dedication to Pope Alexander VII, who reorganized the University of Rome and presented him with a library called Alexandria.


A five-minute video excursion, of course, will not convey all the inner spiritual awe, but it can still cause slight excitement and a spirit of mystery.

Getting there

Route Colosseo - Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Route Vittorio Emanuele to Santa Maria - Sopra - Minerva
  • By bus. Routes 30, 70, 81, 87, 116, 130F, 186, 492, 628, C3 stop. buses: Corso Rinascimento is a five minute walk from the church.
  • On foot. From the Trevi Fountain, you can walk in ten minutes, there are signs for the Panthenon, from the Piazza della Minerva you can see it.

Helpful information

  • Address: Italy, Rome, Piazza della Minerva 42 00186 Roma.
  • Opening hours: Mon-Fri 07: 50-19: 00, Sat 15: 30-19: 00.
  • Official website: