Santa Maria in Trastevere is thought to be the oldest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Originally founded in the fourth century, the present church was built during the reign of Pope Innocent II (r. 1130-43).
The Romanesque bell-tower dates back to the 12th century as do the mosaics on the facade.
Above the main entrance to the church is a tondo inscribed with the Greek characters MP ΘY (Mother of God). The doors bear a quotation from the Psalms: 'HAEC PORTA DOMINI IUSTI INTRABUNT IN EAM' ('This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter,' 118:20).
The nave is divided from the aisles by twenty-one ancient granite columns of varying heights and widths. Some are topped with Ionic capitals, others with Corinthian.
The mosaics in the apse are devoted to the glorification of the Virgin Mary and date back to the time of Innocent II. The Pope can seen carrying a model of the church. Immediately below are a series of 13th century mosaics depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, the work of Pietro Cavallini (died c. 1330).
The intricately carved wooden ceiling (1617) was funded by Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini and designed by Domenico Zampieri, better known as Domenichino (1581-1641), who also painted the panel of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in the centre.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
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