Posted by: Debra Kolkka | February 18, 2012

The golden church in Trastevere – Rome

Trastevere means ” across the Tiber” and the area is a bit different from the streets around the Spanish Steps. There are lovely cobblestone streets winding through quaint houses, shops and restaurants. I wandered about, only getting lost a couple of times until I came to the Piazza Santa Maria, which takes its name from the gorgeous church of the same name.


The original church was built on the site in the 4th century. The current edition dates from the 12th century. The bell tower was built from 1145 – 1153. It is one of the oldest churches in Rome and is famous for its beautiful golden mosaics. There is even a tiny mosaic of the Virgin Mary, to whom the church is dedicated, at the top of the bell tower ( it is just under the bell ).




Under the facade of the roof are the original mosaics from the 13th century of the Virgin Mary holding Christ, surrounded by 10 saint holding lamps. I find it incredible that these are intact and looking so beautiful.

At the entrance are some very old and faded frescoes.


The original 12th century mosaics in the apse are in the Byzantine style, similar to those in Ravenna.





I particularly liked the row of sheep, representing Christ ( the sheep with the crown, or halo ) and the 12 apostles.



The gorgeous ceiling dates from the 17th century.


There is lots to see in this beautiful church, don’t miss it!!!





  1. What extra ordinary work, so so beautiful thank you Debra and you know I would not mind being lost there either.. c

    • Getiing lost is half the fun. It is a gorgeous church and so very well preserved.

  2. I love wandering the streets around the Piazza Santa Maria.There’s so much to see and find. I’d forgotten about the wonderful mosaics in the church-thanks for the reminder.

    • I think it is very beautiful, so much glittering gold.

  3. Your photos are spectacular! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you. The church is spectacular.

  4. We ate just down the street from this church on our last night in Rome. I have very similar pictures. Unfortunately I did not make it inside the church. Based on your lovely photos, I regret that now.

    • You will have to go back. The mosaics are worth a trip to Rome all by themselves.

  5. Thank you, Debra, the Trastevere and “Titulus Santa Mariae trans Tiberian”, a “titular basilica”, one of the very few, and, although as you rightly say part of it has been built over the remains of the 4th Century basilica, the original one was founded by Pope Alexander I, around 112. It is said that the first open Mass in Rome was celebrated there.
    The nave preserves its original pre- XII Century layout and the 22 columns and the lintel on the entrance door came from the Caracalla Baths or the Temple of Isis (nobody is certain).
    Those 13th Century mosaics that you photographed, represent Mary nursing Baby Jesus, surrounded by the 10 virgins from the Parable of the 10 Virgins (Gospel according to Matthew), holding their lamps. Most unusual, but really beautiful!!!!
    It is said that this basilica did not become the most important one in Rome because it was located on the “wrong” side of the Tiber. It was the first one to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary, before Sta. Maria Maggiore….
    Are we on the right or the wrong side of the Lima?… We are both on the same side….

    • We are quite clearly on the right side of the Lima. I like Trastevere.

  6. just love your photo’s Debra. I remember passing the church while in Rome but didn’t have the time to see it. But through you I get to catch up on all things missed… Thanks V

    • What a pity you didn’t have time to go in, it is an amazing church.

  7. Stunning photos, Deb! Love the mosaics! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend.

    • I am having fun rediscovering Bagni di Lucca. It is still cold and now it is raining, but that’s OK.

  8. What a treasure Trastevere is! I love Mulino’s little history commentary which compliments your observations on this beautiful church, Debra. I’m amazed at the intricate designs of the ceiling within the church, the preservation of the golden mosaics and the visual biblical explanations of the tiles. In those early days, not everyone could read and write; so, the visual biblical pictures were important to convey a particular message. Christ is depicted as the Pascal Lamb sacrificed for the sins of the world (an appropriate message for the coming season of Easter). He is also depicted as the Great Shepherd, hence the line of sheep as His ‘flock.’ Could anyone tell me why there are stars around the Virgin Mary’s head? They look beautiful. What is the meaning of the hand in the last picture? Perhaps, Mulino can explain this further?

    • Perhaps Maria knows something about the last picture. I just thought it was lovely.

  9. Debra, I have so enjoyed catching up with your posts and stunning photos. I was just showing friends photos of our trip through Italy this past fall. I can never get enough of traveling to Europe.

    • There is just so much to see in Italy. One lifetime is not enough.

  10. My friends and I found this church whilst just wandering around looking for somewhere to eat. Love this part of Rome – I bought a great necklace going on 10pm on the way back to our apartment. Just love late night shopping.

    • Trastevere is a great area, it is a bit more quiet than the more well known places. I also like the little streets around Piazza Navona going towards Via Governo Vecchio, they have a similar feel.

    • Trastevere is a great area, it is a bit more quiet than the more well known places. I also like the little streets around Piazza Navona going towards Via Governo Vecchio, they have a similar feel.

  11. Beautiful, ornate, and such a step back into the past. Thanks for sharing, Deb! 🙂

    • This church is in amazing condition considering its age.

  12. Thanks for sharing this, Debra. I love Trastevere and this church in particular. It also has beautiful green and cream mosaic marble floors. My husband and I spent a week in Rome and stayed in a little hotel right off of the square. I visited the church several times – a treasure!

  13. I don’t think you could ever run out of beautiful things to photograph in Italy! 🙂

    • Certainly not in my lifetime.

  14. Wow those mosaics are so very beautiful.

    • They are beautiful and so very old.

  15. Mosaics did remind me of the ones in Ravenna at Sant ‘Apollinare in Classe. Interesting to see the theme repeated in a different way.

    • They reminded me a lot of the ones we saw in Ravenna.

  16. Heart-warming Debra. I love your eye for detail and the close ups! I discovered a trattoria in Trastevere a couple of winters back. You know the kind. No menu. Family in the kitchen. Being waited on by the owner’s ten year old on a day off from school. Needless to say a delicious, economical Roman lunch surrounded by banker workers and ‘operai’ in overalls. Memories!

    • I love these little places you find all over Italy. I hope it never changes.

      • Amen!

  17. If only the Italians could export their wonderful artwork, they would not be staring down the barrel at this moment.

    • Italy certainly does export its wonderful design. Let’s hope they don’t have to sell off their treasures.

  18. I’m in awe of the mosaics inside the churches of Italy – most beautiful 🙂

    • This church is full of gorgeous things.

  19. very beautiful church..

    • It is a gorgeous church. Perhaps you can visit on your next trip to Rome.

  20. […] This entry was posted in What to see in Rome and tagged church, piazza, rome, travel. Bookmark […]

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