Italy is a country that is steeped in tradition, art, and culture. Italy is also home of the Catholic religion and the seat of the Pope, which means it has some of the most beautiful churches in the world.
There are tons of churches in Italy, but here are ten that you should certainly make an effort to see if you are in the region and you want to see some truly stunning architecture and culture.
Famous Churches in Italy
1. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
St. Peter’s is located in the Vatican City and was started in 1506 and completed in 1626. It is the perfect example of renaissance architecture and was designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
It is also renowned as one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture ever. This church is also the largest by interior measure in the world.
Also Read: Famous Churches in Rome
St. Peter’s is thought to be one of the holiest churches in the Catholic religion and is one of the greatest churches in Christendom.
It is believed that the basilica is the burial place of St. Peter, the chief apostle to Jesus. This is a highly impressive church that is sure to stay with you for years to come.
2. St. Marks’ Basilica, Venice
This basilica was consecrated in 1094 and is located in Venice. It is located in St. Mark’s Square and was once the religious center of the Republic of Venice. It is attached to the Doge Palace and is absolutely stunning.
The church that currently stands on the site is the 3rd to stand there and is a reflection of the need for a place to hold Venetian ceremonies of state.
The current configuration was altered to fit the needs of the state, but was constricted by the limited space of the physical site.
The interior features gold ground mosaics, scenes of saints, bible scenes and more and is a breathtaking display. The exterior has clear Byzantine sculptural elements that are so gorgeous to look at.
3. Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon in Rome is an example of an early Roman temple that was altered to be a Christian church. The Pantheon was first a temple to all Roman Gods and was then converted to a catholic church in 609 AD. Is also referred to as The Basilica of St. Mary and the Martyrs.
The church features a cylindrical design with a massive portico and some very impressive columns that hearken back to the Romans that built it. It is one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings and has been in continual use since it was built.
This is a fantastic juxtaposition between ancient Roman architecture that made the city and current day needs. The building is currently a heritage site that is well maintained and that is also very well loved. If you are in Rome, it is certainly a must see.
4. Siena Cathedral, Siena
This cathedral is also referred to as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. It is located in Siena, Italy and was built between 1215 and 1263.
There are works in the cathedral from some of the most prolific and known artists in Italy like Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Donatello, Pinturicchio, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Bernini. It also houses a chapel to St. John the Baptist.
The Cathedral is also home to the Piccolomini Library and some truly stunning illuminated choir books as well as frescoes that tell about the life of cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini that would alter become Pope Pius II.
5. Florence Cathedral
This is also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower. Construction started in 1296 and was not finished until 1436. The cathedral is faced with marble which gives it a gorgeous appearance.
As part of the cathedral the Piazza del Duomo, the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile are all part of the complex and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is one of the largest churches in Italy and until modern technology became widely used, the dome was the largest in the world. The cathedral is the mother church for the Archdiocese of Florence and is a truly stunning example of architecture and heritage.
The original church has been expanded on several times so that now it is one of the largest in the country. Donatello’s first version of David is housed here as well as his sculpture of Saint John the Evangelist and a fiberglass replica of the finished David statue.
This is a truly remarkable church where you can clearly see the history of the church even in the current configuration of the church.
6. Orvieto Cathedral, Orvieto
This cathedral is one that is truly magnificent. It was constructed under Pope Urban IV and was made to provide a place for the Corporal of Bolsena.
This is an artifact that was thought to have performed a miracle in a nearby town.
The church is located on what is called a volcanic plug, which means it is situated on a hardened piece of magma on top of an active volcano, which is in turn, pretty fascinating.
It has a large rose window and several frescos as well as some truly gorgeous statuary. The first flagstone was laid in 1290 and the church was finally finished in 1607.
It features plenty of Gothic touches including relief work that depicts scenes like the creation of Eve. It also has golden frontage that is decorated with relief sculptures that are truly stunning.
7. Basilica of St. Anthony, Padua
It is not known specifically when the construction began, but it is believed to have begun around 1232 after the death of St. Anthony.
This church is particularly interesting because it does not employ one single type of architecture. Instead, it is an amalgamation of all the styles that were prevalent during each phase of construction and each phase of remodeling.
The exterior is certainly more Romanesque in design while portions of the interior has a more Gothic feel. It also has Turkish minarets. This is truly a church that has come together out of necessity and that has taken on characteristics of each phase of remodel.
It has a range of funerary monuments that are also prevalent like the Blessed Sacrament. This is a fun church to visit if you are interested in seeing what each phase or each remodel brings to a church of this size.
8. Cathedral of St. Agatha, Catania
Due to its location, this cathedral has been rebuilt several times as a result of earthquakes and other natural disasters that are associated with Mt. Etna.
It was first constructed in the year 1078 and was completed in 1093. The current exterior of the church can be attributed to the work that was done in the year 1711 by Gian Battista Vaccarini.
The changes made were more baroque in style and it can be seen in the features of the exterior. The interior of the church is laid out in the Latin cross plan and there are several impressive paintings of various saints from the 17th century.
This is a gorgeous church that is a bit off the beaten path but still well worth taking the time to give it a visit.
9. Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence
The claim to fame for this church is some of the famous Italians that have been put to final rest there. This is the final resting place of Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, and more.
This is a fantastic place to visit if you want to see where some of the most famous men in Italy were put to rest. There are funerary monuments to these men within the church as well as monuments to other famous Italians.
The building of the current church was started in 1294 to replace a church that was previously on the site and in ill repair. The design is very Franciscan and though it has been improved upon and made more elaborate, those simple lines can still be seen.
10. Pisa Cathedral, Pisa
This cathedral is devoted to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and is one of the oldest churches in the area. It is located in the same plaza as the famous leaning tower. It was constructed in what builders call a Pisan Romanesque style.
Construction started in 1063 and was completed in 1092 and many parts have been repaired including a full replacement of the roof in 1595 due to damage from a fire. It was constructed outside of the medieval walls of the city.
It was built in a Greek cross style and features multicolored marble and other ornamentation on the exterior that makes the cathedral a true sight to see and a fantastic church to visit.
This is a great option if you are in Pisa and you want to see a church that is truly fascinating and ornate and that has some truly stunning artistic touches like the huge bronze doors that were worked on by other artists