Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Wednesday 22 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Maurice and the Theban Legion
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

Why does Rome have over 900 churches?

TWIN CHURCHES

Maria Paola Daud-ALETEIA

J-P Mauro - published on 10/14/19

We've talked of the beauty of Rome's numerous churches, but why do they need so many?

Rome, the Eternal City, is known for its plethora of beautiful churches. It is estimated that there are more than 900 churches in Rome, but why do they need so many?

The easy answer is that Rome is the capital city of the Catholic faith. Of course there would be the largest number of churches in the city surrounding the Vatican, but to better understand where all these churches came from we have to look at the history of Catholicism.

Italy’s Wonders notes that in pagan Rome, the people whom the Empire conquered were free to worship in the traditions of their cultures. However, Christians were not afforded this concession.

In the early years of Christianity, the Roman Empire shunned the budding religion and made it illegal to worship Christ. For over 300 years Christian Masses were celebrated in secret, lest the congregation fall under the fierce persecution of the Roman Legion. In hiding, Christians gathered in small congregations, usually worshiping out of the clerics’ houses.

In 313 Emperor Constantine announced that it would no longer be a crime for Christians to worship, but this did not immediately unite all of these small congregations, who had become used to celebrating Mass with their communities. With the edict, which effectively decriminalized the Christian faith, many of the houses where they worshiped in secret were renovated to become full-time churches.

In 380, under the rule of emperor Theodosius, Christianity became the official religion of Rome. This led to a surge of church building, as now that the royal family was worshiping the Christian Triune God, all the people — about one million– needed places to worship as well.

As time went by, more and more houses of Christian worship were constructed to meet the demands of the most populated city in the ancient world. By the medieval era, it became a standard practice for wealthy families to build their own churches. These churches were built on a grand scale and featured splendid art, but it was also a competition between these influential families to build the most beautiful and well attended church.

Today, there are more than 900 churches in Rome, a number that rises to nearly 1,600 if chapels in private residences, palaces, and convents are taken into account. The vast majority of these buildings maintain their function as places of worship and even more of them are enjoyed by tourists.

These ancient buildings stand as a monument to the enduring history of the Catholic Church, in a city that is still about 80% Catholic.

Tags:
CatholicCatholic historyChurchRome
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
ARGENTINE CHILDREN
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
3
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
4
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
5
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
6
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
7
PIER GIORGIO FRASSATI
Cerith Gardiner
12 Habits of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati that every young adult...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.