We might have had a little bit of gelato while in Rome.
The Pantheon is an impressive structure: large, cylindrical topped with a huge dome. It sits on one side of a good sized piazza with restaurants and shops and lots of people.
Inside, the space is equally large, and wide open. As you walk in, there is the main altar straight ahead.
The dome of the Pantheon is quite impressive, especially considering how large the building is. There’s also a big hole in the roof, so if it’s raining outside, it’s raining inside too.
The High Altar has candle stick holders that are as tall as the person that was lighting the candles when we were there.
In addition to “newer” mosaics and sculptures, there are much older ones on the walls of the Pantheon, such as this fresco. Pretty remarkable that something like this has managed to survive so long.
The Pantheon isn’t just a tourist attraction though. It’s still a functioning Catholic church, so about 10-15 minutes before Mass starts, they start shooing out the people who aren’t planning to participate in the Mass.
If you’re visiting the Pantheon, stick around for the Mass. Afterwards, you’ll have a little bit of time to wander around while it’s relatively empty before they let the tourists back in.
The Basilica seemed a little bit out of the way to me (probably because I wasn’t really paying a lot of attention to where we were going), but it wasn’t very far from a metro station and only a few stops from Termini.
The Basilica has the distinction of being the seat of the Bishop of Rome, who also happens to be the Pope.
The inside, like the previous Papal Basilicas, is very large, very grand, and beautifully decorated.
The impressively large baldacchino holds statues of St Paul and St Peter
Along the sides are larger than life sculptures of the Apostles, with St Peter and St Paul closest to the altar.
We didn’t spend a whole lot of time here, and it was the last of the four major basilicas that we visited.
A few blocks away from Rome’s Termini train station is the Papal Basilica of St Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore).
A circular plaza with a central obelisk and fountain provides a nice place for hanging out and selfie opportunities.
Inside the Basilica, it’s very big and also very beautifully decorated.
Over the front entry is a large very nice stained glass window (people for scale)
The adoration chapel
In the confessio
One more papal basilica to visit.
The Basilica of St. Paul Outside-The-Walls (Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura) is located (not surprisingly) outside the walls of the original Rome, and is built on top of where St. Paul is buried. There’s a metro stop just a couple blocks away, so the Basilica is pretty easy to get to.
Going through the front entrance puts you into a nice little garden square with a large statue of St Paul in the middle.
Inside, the Basilica is very long, and like all the churches in Rome, beautifully decorated. On the walls just below the ceiling are mosaics of all the Popes, with the current pope lit up by a spotlight.
I counted about a dozen or so empty spots for future popes. Not sure what happens when those are all filled up.
There’s also a gift shop/book shop here, a little cafe where you can get some food and drinks (including beer…how many churches can you say you’ve had a beer at?!). There’s also an archaeological dig/exhibit, but it wasn’t open when we were there. Looked like it would have been pretty interesting to go through. Near the Basilica is an archaeological dig of a necropolis which looked pretty interesting through the fence.
Definitely worth adding to the list of places to visit when you’re in Rome.