The Santa Maria in Via Lata Church is one of two churches in Rome that claim the Apostle Paul was imprisoned there while awaiting his sentence. The other is the San Paolo alla Regola Church. It is best known for its underground crypt.
Santa Maria in Via Lata Church Rome
Address, hours and admission
Address: Via del Corso, 306 – Rome (District: Trevi). Opening hours: From 17:00 to 22:30; on Sundays and holidays also an 09:45 to 11:30. Telephone: +39 06 83396276. Reservations are required for the underground crypt. Telephone: +39 3200960993 or +39 3473811874. Bus: All buses that stop at Piazza Venezia. The crypt can be visited from Tuesday to Sunday, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.. On Saturdays and Sundays, there is an additional opening time from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Admission: Admission to the church itself is free. To visit the excavations you pay 2 Euro per person.
History and Description
The Santa Maria in Via Lata church (Via Lata is the former name of today’s shopping street Via del Corso) is best known for the crypt, located below it, where St. Paul is said to have been imprisoned for two years while awaiting his trial, an honor, however, that the San Paolo alla Regola church also claims to possess.
Before the church itself was built, a 5th century oratory was located on the site. The oratory was part of a building that in turn was part of an old department store that was no less than 250 meters long.
The upper part of the church dates back to the 9th century.
Pietro da Cortona also participated in the reconstruction of the underground part, which was carried out in the 17th century. Da Cortona was also responsible for the façade while Cosimo Fanzago had previously taken care of most of the reconstruction.
Some members of the Bonaparte family used to be buried in the church.
In the 1960s, the frescoes previously on display in the crypt were move to the Crypta Balbi Museum. The move was necessary because of the high humidity in the crypt. However, reproductions of the frescoes can still be seen, as well as the marble column which the Apostle Paul is said to have been tied to. Also on display is a marble relief created by Pietro Da Cortona and the cosmatesque floor has been preserved.
What to see
On the Via Lata side of the church the coat of arms of Pope Innocenzo VIII, who had decreed a renovation in 1491, can be seen.
A 13th century icon of the Virgin Avvocata, to which miracles are even attributed. Below this icon, relics of the 3rd century martyr Agapito are being preserved.
The tomb of Zenaida Bonaparte, the daughter of Napoleon’s older brother.