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"Just Another Exquisite, Unknown Church in Rome" Rome Off The Beaten Path Tip by Lacristina

Rome Off The Beaten Path: 773 reviews and 1,310 photos

  Santa Maria della Scala, in Trastevere
by Lacristina

Most visitors to Rome never see this church, or even hear of it, for that matter. It's just one of the more than 900 churches in Rome, most of which never get visited.

Yet it is incredibly beautiful and has a wonderful, interesting history. The polished red marble columns alone are enough to make my knees week! The altar and tabernacle by Rainaldi is impossibly, beautifully ornate.

So what and where is this little gem of a church?

Santa Maria della Scala (of the stairs), in Trastevere, the now trendy working-class neighborhood. Trastevere literally means "across the Tevere" or the Tiber River, from the historical center of Rome. The church is not far from the more famous Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Next to the church (on the right as you face it) is a preserved antique pharmacy from the 18th century, which used to service the Vatican.

For more information on the church, the reason for it's creation, and the pharmacy and how to visit it, see:


Like many churches in Rome, it is closed between noon and 4 p.m. most days.

An interesting sidelight of this church involves my favorite painter, Caravaggio. He was commissioned to produce a painting for the church; the subject was the death of the virgin. The work was rejected (this happened to Caravaggio a lot, he was always getting in trouble.) In this case, perhaps because the model for the virgin was a prostitute, perhaps because her legs were exposed, or perhaps because her belly was too realistically swollen in death. In any event, the painting now hangs in the Louvre. You can see a copy of it here.

Death of the Virgin

(click on the small painting for an enlargement, then click on "Fit Width" at the top)

Address: 23 Piazza della Scala, Trastevere

Less than 300 meters northwest of Santa Maria in Trastevere, where Via della Scala turns into Piazza della Scala.

Review Helpfulness: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Updated Apr 1, 2006
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