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Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo (41)

It is said that the remains of Emperor Nero are buried beneath the foundations of this church. This is due to the fact that in the Middle Ages the legend started that a tree that grew over the spot where the famous emperor was buried was cursed. It is said that crows flew over the spot, which represented the demons that tortured Nero for all the crimes he had committed. This tree was cut down when the first of the churches was built here, in 1099, with the aim of putting an end to this legend. Since then, several constructions have been built on the same site. 

The church currently standing here was built in 1475, on the site of a small chapel built by Paschal II and paid for by the people, hence its name. 

The major interest of Santa Maria del Popolo can be found in its rich interior. Firstly, you will find the Capella Della Rovere, the first nave on the right. This chapel contains the tombs of the cardinals Ascanio Sforza and Girolamo Basso della Rovere. You can also see frescos by Pinturicchio.

Another not-to-be-missed chapel is the Capella Chigi, created by Raphael Sanzio, where you will find some original tombs in the form of a pyramid. The mosaic on the cupola is based on works by Raphael, and the two statues, Habakkuk and Daniel, are the work of Bernini. In the choir windows, above the monuments, there are two fire-painted stained-glass windows by Guillaume de Marcillat which are unique in Rome. 

Finally, you can visit one of the main attractions of this church: the Capella Cerasi, to the left of the main altar. This chapel houses paintings by two of the most important Baroque artists. So do not hesitate in taking in the sight of “The Conversion of Saint Paul” and “The Crucifixion of Saint Peter” by Caravaggio, and “The Assumption of the Virgin” by Carracci.

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