Christian Rome: From Martyrs to Masters
This tour studies the earliest age of Christianity in Rome, focusing on the turbulent period of transition when Christianity went from a persecuted minority to the sole religion of the Empire. Looking at art and architecture produced by the Christian community, we get a sense of the evangelical use of art from the earliest examples, as well as the uniqueness of this belief as expressed through their imagery and monuments.
This tour can be tailored to cover more or less ground, one might choose to start at the Catacombs of Priscilla, where we find the earliest examples of Christian art in the world, before moving on to St. John Lateran, the world’s first legally built Christian church and St. Mary Major, oldest Marian church in the West. We can also start with San Clemente and the its three levels of Roman history, before moving onto SS Giovanni and Paolo where a home was transformed into a place of worship and then conclude with St. John Lateran. We can also visit the complex of St. Paul outside the Walls, and the Church of the Holy Cross where the relics of Christ’s Passion are housed. The list of the early Christian churches is very long, with unsung treasures such as Santo Stefano Rotundo, or Cosmas and Damian or Santa Pudenziana. After the years of research for a book on the Station Churches of Rome, co-authored with George Weigel, I am always delighted to visit the lesser-known treasures alongside the most famous monuments and the Christian roots of Rome.