see it clearly

For the students of history: The Basilicas of Rome

For the student of history the following chronology is presented. The student will note the each century with the dates built.

Roman basilica


S. Peter's .. Constantine, five aisles, about 330 A. D.

S. John Lateran .. Constantine, five aisles, founded 333? A. D.

S. Paul's .. Theodosius and Honorius, five aisles, 386 A. D.

S. Pudentiana .. 335? A. D.


S. Sabina .. Pope Celestine, about 425 A. D.

S. Maria Maggiore .. Pope Sixtus III. 432 A. D.

S. Pietro in Vincoli .. Eudoxia, Greek Doric pillars, 442 A. D.


S. Lorenzo, early portion .. Pope Pelagius, galleries, 580 A. D.

S. Balbina .. Gregory the Great, no side aisles, 600 A. D.


S. Agnes .. Honorius I., galleries, 625 A. D.

Quattro Coronati .. Honorius I., 625 A. D.

S. Giorgio in Velabro .. Leo II., 682 A. D.

S. Chrisogono .. Gregory III., 730 A. D.


S. Giovanni a Porta Latina .. Adrian I., 790? A. D.

S. Maria in Cosmedin .. 790 A. D.

S. Vincenzo alle Tre Fontane .. 790 A. D.

S. Lorenzo, nave .. About 790? A. D.


SS. Nereo ed Achilles .. Leo III., about 800 A. D. S. Praxede .. Paschal I., 820 A. D.

S. Maria in Dominica .. 820 A. D.

S. Martino ai Monti .. Sergius and Leo, 844, 855 A. D.

S. Nicolo in Carcere .. About 900 A. D.

S. Bartolomeo in Isola .. 900 A. D.


S. John Lateran .. Rebuilt by Sergius III., 910 A. D.


S. Clemente .. Rebuilt by Paschal, 1118 A. D.

S. Maria in Trastevere .. Innocent II., 1135 A. D.

S. Croce .. Lucius, 1144 A. D.

S. Maria in Ara Coeli .. Uncertain.


S. Maria sopra Minerva .. Gothic, Gregory XI. about 1370 A. D.


S. Agostino .. Renaissance? about 1480 A. D.

The eleventh and thirteenth centuries produced nothing to be added to this list. It is difficult to assign a positive style to S. Agostino; it may be called the last of the old architecture, or the first of the new, as one likes. Where the number of aisles is not given, there are three. All these basilicas except the last two have flat wooden ceilings over the central aisle, of which the construction is generally exposed. S. Agnes and the old part of S. Lorenzo have two-storied side aisles; in the others these aisles are but one story, and are usually half as wide as the central aisle.

It is difficult to fix the date at which a certain style of architecture begins or ends, as in regard to that when the Romanesque was abandoned and the Gothic introduced. The records of the Church, however, assign the beginning of Gothic art to the time of Gregory the Great, 590-603 A. D.

Perhaps the best statement is that from the time of this notable Pope during a period of five centuries, architecture, like everything else, was groping in uncertain paths; and the initial attempts of the two women, Theodelinda in 600, and Matilda in 1077, may be said to have done much to develop the Gothic order, which claimed its individuality in the time of Gregory VII., 1073-1080.

In the fourth chapter I have spoken of the founding and other matters relating to the most ancient basilica of S. Peter's. Here I shall speak of it more in detail. This church, with that of S. Maria Maggiore, are the two of the four principal basilicas that retain sufficient of their original interest to be attractive. S. Paul's, or S. Paolo fuori le Mura, has been so utterly changed, first by alterations, and later by fire, that while it is a most satisfactory and magnificent modern church, it has not the interest that pertains to S. Peter's and S. Maria Maggiore, which have some features, at least, of a much earlier date.

S. John Lateran, too, has been so signally changed from its original appearance that, while it is historically most interesting, it has lost its architectural beauty, and beyond its original dimensions, which can easily be traced, it retains nothing of its primitive arrangement.

The great number of popes and architects who contributed to the rearing of S. Peter's, taken together with the sculptors and other artists who have furnished its decoration, make a small regiment of those to whom this basilica has been an incitement and an object of affection.