The world’s largest Christian church is the Roman Catholic Church, with having more than 1.2 billion members. It is said to be among the oldest institutions in the world and has played a very vital role in the history of civilization in the West. There a countless number of how many Catholic churches all over the world and there is also a debate with what is the oldest Catholic church in the world.
But with intensive research, it was said that the oldest Catholic church is actually the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere.
The basic floor plan and wall structures date back to the 340s and the first sanctuary was said to be built in 221 and 227. It was built by Pope Callixtus I and after years it was later completed by Pope Julius. The inscriptions state that it is the first house of worship that was dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus.
This magnificent structure went through two restorations back in the fifth and eighth centuries. Presently, this magnificent religious structure preserves its original plan and also stands on the earlier foundations. It was 22 granite columns with Corinthian and Ionic capitals that have separations to the nave from the aisles that came from the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla.
It has several late 13th century mosaics done by Pietro Cavallini about the subject of the Life of the Virgin. There is also a beautiful octagonal ceiling painting named Assumption of the Virgin done by Domenichino that fits in the coffered ceiling setting in which he also designed.
It also keeps a relic of Saint Apollonia and also a portion of the Holy Sponge. There are also the relics of the following who are buried inside; Pope Callixtus I, Pope Innocent II, Antipope Anacletus II, Cardinal Philippe of Alençon, and also Cardinal Lorenzo Campeggio.
Exteriorly, near the top, there is a niche which protects a mosaic of the Madonna and Child. The façade has mosaics and they are probably from the 12th century. It depicts the Madonna crowned and suckling the Child and there are ten women holding lamps.
The façade of this marvelous house of worship was restored by Carlo Fontana back in 1702. He replaced the porch with a sloping tiled roof. There is an octagonal fountain in the piazza located in front of the church called Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. It was also restored by Carlo Fontana.
What Do I Think
If you’re possibly thinking about going to Rome, you should probably include in your “to-do” list to visit the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere, the oldest Catholic church. It will definitely make your trip more worthwhile to know that you are at church with so much history.