Photographer's Note

Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome

WS1: Michelangelo: St. John the Baptist
WS2: Statue St. Regina

The only Gothic church in Rome, the Basilica Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Basilica of St. Mary over Minerva) is so named because it was built directly on the foundations of a temple to Minerva, the goddess of wisdom.
The basilica that stands today was begun in 1280. Architectural changes and redecorations in the 1500s and 1900s stripped it of some of its magnificence, but it still includes an awe-inspiring collection of medieval and Renaissance tombs.


Not much is known about the ruined temple to Minerva on this site, built by Pompey about 50 BCE and referred to as Delubrum Minervae. A temple to Isis and a Serapeum may also underlie the present basilica and its former convent buildings. Some Roman survivals can be seen in the crypt.

The ruined temple is likely to have lasted until the reign of Pope Zacharias (741-752), who finally Christianized the site, offering it to Eastern monks. The Christian structure he commissioned has disappeared.
The present building owes its existence to the Dominican Friars, who received the property from Pope Alexander IV (1254-1261) and made the church and adjoining monastery their influential headquarters. The Dominican Order administers the area today.
The old Romanesque basilica was not splendid enough to serve as the chief Dominican church in Rome, so two Dominican monks, Sisto Fiorentino and Ristoro da Campi began the present structure in 1280. This pair of monastic architects had worked on the Gothic church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, which served as the model for this church in Rome.
After funds contributed by Boniface VIII set an example, the church was completed in 1370. It was later renovated by Carlo Maderno among others, given a Baroque facade, and restored in the 19th century to its present neo-medieval state.
It was in the Dominican monastery adjoining the church that the astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was tried by the Inquisition for teaching that the Earth revolved around the Sun. He was forced to recant and retire

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Additional Photos by Csaba Witz (csabagaba) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 590 W: 167 N: 1409] (6638)
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