Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church Rome

The Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is a church in the historical center of Rome. It is partly famous because some important people are buried in it, partly because it contains works of art by masters such as Michelangelo and Bernini, and partly because of the obelisk that is place right in front of it, on the back of a little sculpted baby elephant.

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Church Rome

Address, opening hours and admission

Address: Piazza della Minerva, 42 – Rome (tel. +39 06 6793926 or 06 69920384). Opening hours: 10.30 till 12.30 and 15.00 till 19.00. Admission: Free.

History and description

Santa Maria Sopra Minerva with Bernini's Elephant in Rome
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva with Bernini’s Elephant

The church was built in the 7th century, on top of the ruins of a temple dedicated to Minerva Calcidica and underwent a reconstruction in the 12th century.

The facade is the result of another reconstruction in the Renaissance period, during which time also a number of changes were made to the interior of the church.

The interior of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is the only example in Rome of a Gothic architectural complex. The three naves of the church have cross vaults resting on pilasters. The marble decorations and paintings on the pilasters are the result of a restoration that took place in the year 1850.

Interior Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
Interior Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

In front of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva is a small Egyptian obelisk on top of a small statue of an elephant. This statue was made by Bernini and was originally planned to embellish the Palazzo Barberini.

The obelisk itself had been found in the gardens of the Monastero di Santa Maria sopra Minerva. It was erected in the square of the church according to the wishes of the friars who had found it.

The works of art in the church include a Michelangelo (“Christ the Redeemer”) as well as a gorgeous fresco by Filippino Lippi.

Bernini designed the funerary monument for Suor Maria Raggi. The nun is depicted in a bronze clypeus (a Roman shield), which is held high by two cherubs. The monument was placed in the church in 1647, when Lorenzo Raggi was elected cardinal.

Underneath the altar are the remains of Saint Caterina di Siena (except for her head, which is still in her birthplace, Siena).

The artist Beato Angelico is also buried in the church, as are the sculptors Filarete and Andrea Bregno.

Piazza della Minerva, 42 – Rome

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