6 Christian Sites in Rome You Should Know About

Rome is famous for the standard tourists sites. The Trevi Fountain, the Forum, Piazza Navona, the Colosseum, the Pantheon—and many other historic places lay alongside modern streets and buildings.

Arch of Constantine

(Photo: The Arch of Constantine in Rome)

But I’d like to show you 6 Christian sites, those sites relevant to believers, including one place that isn’t even on the map.

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans of his plans to see them:

I have had for many years a longing to come to you whenever I go to Spain—for I hope to see you in passing, and to be helped on my way there by you, when I have first enjoyed your company for a while (Romans 15:23-24).

To be sure, Paul would go to Rome—but not like he thought he would.

Mamertine Prison

Paul went to Rome before there were Christian sites to see. He went as a prisoner in chains. Acts 27-28 tells us the story. Arrested in Jerusalem, imprisoned at Caesarea for two years, Paul appealed to Caesar and suffered a shipwreck on his way to Rome as a prisoner.

After two years, Paul was released from his imprisonment, after which he traveled and wrote two more epistles before his final Roman imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison. Here Paul wrote these words to his protege, Timothy:

I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:6–7).

Mamertine Prison in Rome

(Photo: The site of the Mamertine Prison in Rome, where Paul wrote 2 Timothy)

Tres Fontane Abbey

Tradition tells us Paul was martyred outside the walls of Rome at a place most folks have never heard of—one of the Christian sites not on the tourist maps. (You can find it here.)

Don’t confuse Tres Fontane with the famous Trevi Fountain. It’s called Tres Fontane (“Three Fountains”) because, according to legend, after Paul’s head was cut off, it bounced three times and three fountains sprung up! Although the fountain story is apocryphal, the location of his death is historical.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs relates Paul’s martyrdom as follows:

Paul, the apostle, who before was called Saul, after his great travail and unspeakable labors in promoting the Gospel of Christ, suffered also in this first persecution under Nero. Abdias, declareth that under his execution Nero sent two of his esquires, Ferega and Parthemius, to bring him word of his death. They, coming to Paul instructing the people, desired him to pray for them, that they might believe; who told them that shortly after they should believe and be baptised at His sepulcher. This done, the soldiers came and led him out of the city to the place of execution, where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to the sword.

Tres Fontane Abbey in Rome

(Photo: The pathway at the Tres Fontane Abbey leads to the small chapel that marks the site of Paul’s martyrdom)

The Church of St. Paul Outside the Wall

Tradition points to this location as burial place of Paul, about two miles away from Tres Fontane Abbey. The Emperor Constantine erected a building over the site where Paul’s followers had venerated the burial spot of the apostle.

The structures that marked this spot changed and expanded throughout the centuries. The grand basilica we see today largely reflects 19th– and 20th-century architecture. Paul’s grave is clearly marked inside the ornate church.

(Photo: The beautiful Church of St. Paul Outside the Wall, the traditional site where Paul is buried)

St. Peter’s Basilica and Square

Contrary to popular belief and Hollywood movies, it’s unlikely any Christians were killed in the Colosseum. Instead, they were almost all martyred in the Circus of Gaius/Nero—the site where St. Peter’s Square now stands. Of all Christian sites in Rome, this place has received most attention. The Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square is original to the circus, though it stood in a different spot.

Here Peter was crucified, according to tradition, upside down (see John 21:18-19). He is most likely buried deep beneath the basilica in the original burial cave.

St. Peter Square and Basilica in Vatican City

(Photo: St. Peter’s Basilica and Square was the spot where so many Christians were martyred, including Peter)

The Arch of Titus

Constructed in AD 82 by the Emperor Domitian, the arch venerates his older brother Titus’ victories.

Most notably, the inside relief of the arch portrays Roman soldiers carrying off treasures from the Jerusalem Temple, destroyed by Titus in AD 70. Jesus predicted this destruction in AD 33 (Matthew 24:1-2).

Arch of Titus in Rome

(Photo: The underside of the Arch of Titus shows a relief of Roman soldiers carrying off Jerusalem Temple treasures)

Catacombs

Most famous for the early Christians who were buried here, the catacombs offer an essential contribution to early Christian art. Early frescoes and sculptures still exist in the catacombs.

Most touching for me were the smaller burial spots carved out for children who had died.

Catacombs in Rome

(Photo: Catacombs in Rome, by GerardM, via Wikimedia Commons)

Reflections from Rome

Paul, Peter, and the early Christians are the reason we have Christian sites in Rome.

When I think of Paul’s desire to go to Rome, it reminds me how God will give a dream and we head off towards it.

  • We plan that we’ll go by means of A-B-C, but God often gets us there by means of 10-9-8.
  • We can expect the same as Paul. We dream, but we should not put God in a box in regard to His methods.
  • He will fulfill His purposes, but He will do it His way.

We should make long-term plans for a life of faithfulness and fruitfulness. But be ready and willing for God to redirect.

Because He most certainly will.

Question: If you have been to Rome, what site meant most to you? If you have never been, what site would you most like to see? To leave a comment, just click here.

Here’s a map of all the sites I recommend:

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  • Anonymous

    This is so helpful…we returned from Rome in July and longed to find true Biblical sites like this, but couldn't find any tour books that had these listed. If you have any more good sites for evangelical Christians visiting Rome, that would be so great. Thanks for these blogs, they are wonderful!

    • Great! I’m glad it is helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Wayne Stiles

    Some sites in Rome related to biblical themes include:

    Arch of Titus
    Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls
    Circus of Nero (near the Vatican)
    St. Peter's Square
    Mamertine Prison
    Tres Fontane Abbey
    Catacombs
    Nearby Rome: Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns

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  • Michael McMillan

    My wife, our four year old daughter, and I are headed to Rome for 20 days beginning April 22nd and your list is exactly what we were looking for. Thank you very much, for the information where we can see important sites for the Faith.

    • I’m so glad, Michael, this was helpful. These are the sites my wife and I visited, each one wonderful. We especially enjoyed the chapel where Paul was martyred. Have a wonderful time. If you get a chance, I’d love to know how your trip went. God bless.

      • Steve

        Hi Wayne

        Thanks for the article – do you know of a map that would show the locations of these 6 places ?

        Do you have any advice for traveling to Ephesus

        • Hey, Steve. As I mentioned above, you’ll be hard-pressed to find ALL these sites on one map. You could look for one here, or you can click this one I made for you! I also embedded it at the bottom of the post for anyone else to see too.

          My best advice for traveling to Ephesus is to go with a Christian tour company who will connect the trip with Scripture. I suggest Inspiration Tours and Morning Star Tours. If that’s not what you’re asking, please let me know. Thanks.

    • Michael, how was your trip to Rome?

  • Charis

    This is great! Thanks for writing this. I really like the ending too when you wrote, ” We plan that we’ll go by means of A-B-C, but God often gets us there by means of 10-9-8.” I would love to share this with my college class I teach(with proper citation, of course ) about how the Lord accomplishes for us in a way that may appear to be non-linear. Our inundation of movies and TV and elements in our culture suggest to us that we should live in a building- block sort of fashion, where if A+B does not equal “C” then we have failed. It’s so true what you wrote, “He will fulfill His purposes, but He will do it His way.” God bless you! Charis

    • Thanks, Charis. I like your nonlinear phrase. That’s so true! You’re welcome to share what you’d like with your class. Just mention waynestiles.com and I’d appreciate it.

  • Lucinda

    Hi Wayne do you know of a Christian Evangelical tour group that takes groups to the 6 Christian sites in Rome mentioned on your website? Lucinda

    • Lucinda, your best bet is to contact the folks at Inspiration Cruises and Tours. They can point you in the right direction. Thanks.

    • Catherine

      Hi Lucinda – we area heading to Rome in a month and i was wondering what tour company you ended up hiring to take you around to these 6 sites? Thanks!

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  • Claudia Orchanian

    Hi Wayne- I couldn’t believe it when I “googled” Christian sites in Rome and up popped your article! I’m glad to have found it before our trip in September. Wanted to ask you- Is it easy enough to get around Rome by bus? and while I’m at it- do you know any hotels you could reccomend? It’s hard starting out from scratch. Thanks so much!

    • Great to hear from you, Claudia. As far as getting around, our group traveled by private tour bus, so I really don’t know about the public buses. You speak Italian? We stayed at a super hotel, the Sheraton Roma Hotel. It’s reasonable with rates and it’s within walking distance to the Tres Fontane Abbey—where Paul was martyred. Give Kevork my best, and I’m praying you have a great, great time in Rome! I’d love to hear about it after you return.

    • Claudia, how was your trip to Rome?

      • Claudia Orchanian

        Hi Wayne, Kevork and I had such a wonderful trip in Italy and especially seeing the sights in Rome. We hit four out of the six sights you recommended in our three day visit. We did stay at the Sheraton Roma as you suggested. It was a very nice hotel with a shuttle to downtown Rome and helpful staff. On our first night, Friday, we walked the lovely streets from the Pantheon to the Spanish steps. On Saturday, we visited St. Peters and the Vatican Museums with a guided tour in the morning and then a Colosseum/Ancient Rome tour (including the Arches of Titus and Constantine) in the afternoon. Whew! On Sunday morning, we visited the Tres Fontane Abbey. It was such a beautiful setting and the little chapel with the fountain waters bubbling and nuns singing in the background made it truly feel like a Holy place. Wish we could have spent more time there. On our final day in Rome we explored on our own and found the Mamertine Prison. This too felt like a Holy place. To be able to connect with the Apostles footsteps and martyrdom in this way, was just amazing and added so much to our experience of Rome. Thanks again for your article and advice.

        • I’m so glad, Claudia, that you were able to go and enjoy these places—and that this post helped in some way. Wow, just hearing about your trip makes me want to go back to Rome! Thanks and God bless.

        • leantoc

          Where is the Holy Place?…….in the presence and perfect will of the Thrice Holy One. Not a place, not a building built by free or slaves!

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  • Ronald Das

    Hi Wayne, God willing we to travel to Rome last week of Sept. Was really inspired by your descriptive information on the bibilical site to see whilst there. Thanks much for the insights. Will revert after our return, we head of to Turkey to further trace steps of Paul’s first and second journey beginning with Galatia.

    • Have a wonderful trip, Ronald. God bless you! I’m glad my post was able to help and encourage you. Thanks.

  • Stella

    this is excellent! thank you so much for sharing! God willing I am headed to Rome this Sunday and I’m wondering if you have a recommendation on the best way to get to these sites from my hotel ( Artemide Hotel, Via Nazoinale)

    • If you’re going by yourself, Stella, you might consider renting a car and a GPS. A taxi could get pricey. Your hotel should be able to suggest a car rental place—or perhaps they could suggest a better way to see these sites. We went with a large tour so our transportation was set. Have a great time!

      • Stella

        Thank you so much for responding, please pray for our traveling mercies 🙂

  • Margaret

    Santa Scala was the most spiritual amazing place in Rome for me. I stumbled on it two years ago and kneeled up all of the 28 steps. Emotion poured through me. Tears rolled out of my eyes. I could not control them. The compassion I felt for all those praying
    and our Lord and Savior was overwhelming.

    • To be sure, Margaret, traveling to Rome is a wonderful experience to see places of history and faith come together. I encourage you to look to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as the only way any forgiveness can come to you. Perhaps you do already—and that is marvelous—but we have to be careful that any religious act replace our reliance on faith alone in Christ alone as the means by which God grants grace and forgiveness. Thanks so much for your comment.

      • leantoc

        it is Grace plus nothing….no Superstition or club or denomination or ritual can substitute for the blood….Nothing but umerited Grace

  • Brian

    Wayne, I’m going to Rome with 10 other Christian ministry leaders. We are all Americans but lead ministries in Europe. We are meeting up for four full days in Rome in January. We plan to spend time at a site looking at it and then one of us will lead a 60-90 minute discussion related to that site and being followers of Jesus. This means we won’t have time to visit all the main sites. With that in mind, I’m curious what sites you would focus on and any possible themes that come to mind (i.e. visit Mamertime Prison and then discuss suffering for the gospel). Would love your opinion on this! Thanks for any ideas. I appreciated reading your site.

    • What a great trip that sounds like, Brian! I would focus on these three I’ve listed in this post:

      1. Mamertine Prison —focusing on the themes of 2 Timothy: the importance of faithfulness in ministry, passing it on the next generation, and trusting God with how He uses us.
      2. Tres Fontane Abbey —considering our death and legacy as our best testimony; I talk a lot about this in chapters 10-11 of my book Waiting on God.
      3. St. Peter’s Square —the great conversation Jesus had with Peter in John 21: “Do you love me?” and how Peter would die one day for Christ. Perhaps contrast Peter’s pre-cross passion for self-glory versus his end-of-life passion to die upside-down for Christ.

      I’m headed back to Rome in March, and I can’t wait to see each of these places again. I wish our paths could have crossed. May God be with you on your journey, Brian.

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  • Carol Dikes

    Love that you’ve got this helpful list on your blog – now I can recall what sites we saw while part of the Insight For Living Israel 2016 Tour! A life-changing experience to be sure! for me the most impacting location in Rome was the place where Paul was beheaded, his heart and life were true to his Savior.

    • I’m glad you found this post, Carol. Wasn’t that a great time in Rome? God bless.

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  • Bertha Jones

    Hello Wayne my husband and I are going to Rome in July, can you suggest any more places to visit, beside the three in this article .

    • You’ll have such a great time, Bertha. My wife and I were there just a few months ago! I’ve actually recommended 6 Christian sites to see in this post. You would enjoy them all. We also enjoyed the Vatican museum a LOT. Other great sites are Trevi Fountain, the Forum, Piazza Navona, the Colosseum, and the Pantheon. Let me know how it goes! God bless.

  • Mateo

    I didn’t see any mention of the Cupola. A fantantastic spiral walk to the top of St. Peters Dome. Spectacular panoramic vista!!!

    • Indeed, Mateo, that is a fantastic experience. I guess there are hundreds of other things I could have mentioned to do in Rome, however, this post centered on Christian sites and how they particularly relate of interest to Christians. St. Peter’s Square is certainly relevant as the place where Peter died. Thanks.

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  • Anil Joy Thomas

    Dear Brother Wayne….

    Praise the Lord!

    We are a family of three from India who have arrived in Rome today June 3rd 2017 Saturday to see all the biblical places of importance in New Testament.

    We shall be here for 10 days.

    Kindly guide us with all the available information.

    May the Grace of Jesus Christ be with you.

    Dr. Anil Joy Thomas.

    • I hope you have a wonderful time. I’m not sure what information I can give you beyond what I have already provided in this post. Feel free to be more specific with your questions. God bless!

  • Eddie Marsh

    Is this the same as the church of St Paul =

    Basilica Papale San Paolo fuori le Mura ???

  • GW

    You mentioned catcombs, but specificly I found the Catacombs of Priscilla to be the most like what I expected catacombs to be like. Very few tourist. Wish I had known about TRES FONTANE ABBEY.

    • Now you have a reason to return, GW. 🙂 The Abbey is very peaceful, and the tradition is strong that Paul went to glory at that site. Thanks and God bless.