The chief Dominican church in Rome is Santa Maria Sopra Minerva near the Pantheon. It was begun about 1285 , possibly by the same builders as of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Fra Sisto and Fra Ristoro, on the ruins of the Temple of Minerva and was completed about 1370 and then given by the Senate and people of Rome to the Dominicans. It was restored and redecorated with paintings from 1848 to 1855 and contains several valuable works of art.
It is the only Gothic church in Rome and stands on the site of a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis who was assimilated into the Roman Minerva erected by Pompey to commemorate the victories in Asia; Domitian restored the temple in about 80 B.C.
Visitors to the church square are greeted by the figure of an elephant designed by Bernini in 1667 and used as a base for a small Egyptian obelisk from the 6th century BC. The inscription on the pedestal says that it requires great strength to bear wisdom.
Located in the city centre, under the care of the Dominican preaching order, the church attracted the Roman people. Inside the basilica, there is a nave divided from the two aisles by arcades of columns, and side chapels decorated with paintings. The large number of tombs bear witness to the importance of this church in the religious life of the city.
The best-known burial chapel is that of the Caraffa family in the transept, on the end wall on the right. It is also known as the Chapel of the Annunciation of St Thomas, and contains the tomb of Cardinal Oliviero Caraffa. It is famous for frescoes by Filippino Lippi from the period around 1489. Lippi simultaneously depitted the fame of the Mother of God and Virgin Mary and that of St Thomas Aquinas, who was a Dominican.
The remains of St Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) rest in the high altar. In a multitude of letters, she urged the popes to return to Rome from their exile in Avignon. To the left of the high altar is a marble statue of the resurrected Christ by Michelangelo (1521). The tomb of the exceptionally gifted church painter Fra Angelico, a member of the Dominican order, is in the side choir on the left.
Tickets & Tours:
Colosseum to Santa Maria Sopra Minerva:
Santa Maria Sopra Minerva set in the Piazza della Minerva, 1,6 km from (20 min walk) from Colosseum. Bus Lines: 26, 87, 94.