Top 10 Features of Churches

St Peter's Basilica
Click on image to see enlargedShould the oppurtunity arise, dont miss seeing the basilica's cavernous interior when all the lights are on - only then can you fully appreciate this giant jewel - box of colour.

Santa Maria del Popolo
Click on image to see enlargedLegend recounts that on this spot, where a magnificent oak grew, Nero died and was buried. The site was thought cursed, but in 1099, in a vision, the Virgin told Pope Paschal ll to fell the oak, dig up the evil emperor's bones and build a chapel.

San Clemente
Click on image to see enlargedThis unpretentious yet compelling church provides a concise Roman history lession in one concentrade location

Santa Maria Maggiore
Click on image to see enlargedOne of Rome's greatest Basilicas, this richly decorated church dates from the 5th-century as do its earliest mosaics, full of Byzantine splendour. The 16th-century Cappella Sistina's rare marbles were "quarried", in typical papal fashion, by destroying an ancient wonder - in this case, the Palatin's Septizonium, a tower created by Septimius severus in AD 203.

Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Click on image to see enlargedBuilt over an ancient temple of wisdom, this is Rome's only Florentine Gothic church, built around 1280. In the 16th century it was the stronghold of the inquisition in Rome. Among its great art in Michelangelo's Risen Christ, Created nude but now sporting a skewed, gilt-broze loincloth. The body of St Catherine of Siena, who convinced the papacy to return from France in 1377, reclines under the alter.

San Giovanni in Laterano
Click on image to see enlargedThe " Mother of All Churches", the cathedral of Room's bishopric was founded by Constatine in the 4th-century. It was the chief papal residenceuntill 1309, and popes were crowned here up until the 19th century. Its most recent renovation was ordered in 1650, explaining the present -day Baroque bombast, with mammoth saints gesturing and gyrating. the remarkable cloisters are 13th-century Cosmatesque.

Santa Maria in Trastevere
Click on image to see enlargedThis is probably Rome's oldest church and cirtainly one of the most intimate and charming. Dating from the time of Pope Calixtus l (AD 217-222), it was an early centre of Marian devotion and is Rome's only medieval church that has not been transmogrified by either decay or enthusiastic Baroque renovators. Legend claims it was founded on a spot where olive oil miracoulously sprange forth on the day pf Christ's birth.

San Luigi dei Francesi
Click on image to see enlargedThe national church of France in Italy really has only one star turn, but it is a priceless one at that - Caravaggio's famous trio enormous paintings in the Chapel of St Matthew. The central oil of canvas, St Matthew and the Angel, is the second version. The first was rejected by the church because the saint was shown with dirty feet - and, some say, beacause his reletionship with the young angel seemed inappropriately intimate.

San Paolo fuori le Mura
Click on image to see enlargedDespite its rather soul less 19th - century reconstruction following a fire, the grandeur of this 4th - century basilica con still impress. Some restored 5th - century and 12th - century and 13th - century mosaics survive, along with thw orginal 11th - century bronze door and a grand Paschal candlestick. fortunately the cloisters on inlaid double columns (1214) consideredthe most beautiful in Rome, escaped the flames.

Sant' Andrea della Valle
Click on image to see enlargedMost visitors seek out this church as the setting of the first act of Puccini's opera Tosca, but the counter - Reformation giant is also important in its won right. It has the city's second - largest dome, a flameboyant Baroque facade and some wonderful frescoes by Domenichino inside.