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Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura

Brief Description

Founded, according to legend, by Romulus and Remus in 753 BC, Rome was first the centre of the Roman Republic, then of the Roman Empire, and it became the capital of the Christian world in the 4th century. The World Heritage site, extended in 1990 to the walls of Urban VIII, includes some of the major monuments of antiquity such as the Forums, the Mausoleum of Augustus, the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the Pantheon, Trajan’s Column and the Column of Marcus Aurelius, as well as the religious and public buildings of papal Rome.

Long Description

The extraterritorial properties of the Holy See that make up this World Heritage site comprise a series of unique artistic achievements - Santa Maria Maggiore, St John Lateran and St Paul Outside the Walls. These properties exerted considerable influence on the development of architecture and monumental arts throughout the centuries in a large part of the Christian world.

The Lateran Treaty concluded in 1929 between Italy and the Holy See established that a number of properties termed 'extraterritorial' and situated on Italian soil remained the exclusive property of the Holy See. In addition to the three great churches, there are several remarkable palaces: the Cancelleria (1483-1517), the Palazzo Maffei, the Palazzo di San Callisto and lastly, the Palazzo di Propaganda Fide, renovated by Bernini and Borromini.

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is one of the four greater basilicas of Rome, of greatest artistic importance, religious and urban planning. In papal Rome it became one of the fulcrums of the urban plan of Sixtus V. The basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with its typical bell tower and the cupolas, is a characteristic element of the Roman scene. Characteristic of the basilica is the quality and the abundance of the mosaics: those of the nave (36 panels) and those of the arch dated back to the 5th century, while those of the apse have been finished in 1295. The beautiful rear facade, the work of Carl Rainaldi (1673), is one of the most solemn realizations of the Baroque architecture.

San Giovanni in Laterano was the first cathedral of Rome, where Emperor Constantine allowed the pope to set up the episcopal chair after 312. Popes lived in the Lateran Palace until Clement V (1305-14) transferred the papal seat to Avignon. The present name is a result of the importance of the baptistry in the church, and of the presence of a Benedictine monastery dedicated to saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. It had five naves; the exterior was simple, but the interior was lavishly decorated. The first major restoration was ordered by Pope Saint Sergius (687-701). Pope Sergius III (904-11) had the basilica completely rebuilt because of the earthquake damage. The old foundations were used, and it was built within the old perimeter. It was after this rebuilding that it was formally dedicated to St John the Baptist. The additional dedication to St John the Evangelist was made by Pope Lucius II (1144-45). In 1646, the basilica was in danger of collapsing. Pope Innocent X gave the task of restoring it to Borromini, in preparation for the Holy Year of 1650. It was during Borromini's restoration that the church was given its Baroque appearance.

San Paolo fuori le Mura is one of the four patriarchal basilicas of Rome built at the request of Constantine in 314 and later enlarged. In 1823, after being almost completely destroyed by fire, it was rebuilt by the architect Poletti and finished in 1854. The interior of the current basilica has 80 monolithic columns of Montorfano granite divided into five naves. On the upper part of the walls closed by slabs of Egyptian alabaster between big windows there are 36 frescoes with the scenes from the life of St Paul. Underneath the wall the frieze extends to the entire medium aisle. Against the internal wall of the facade there are six large alabaster columns presented by the Viceroy of Egypt to Gregory XVI.


  • At the time the property was extended, cultural criterion (iv) was also found applicable.