Legend has it that there are more churches in Rome than there are days of the year. In fact, there are more than 900 churches in Rome, the vast majority of them Roman Catholic. Christianity began its rise to prominence here in the fourth century CE, with the support and protection of Emperor Constantine. Rome’s oldest extant religious spaces, such as the Basilica San Clemente, date to this period. Religious tolerance was pervasive until the 16th century when Pope Paul IV issued a series of edicts which resulted in the expulsion of all non-Catholic faiths from the city. These policies remained largely in place until the formation of the present-day state of Italy in 1870. While Rome remains best known as home to the Holy See, it is now also home to a diverse religious community, including one of Europe’s largest synagogues and Europe’s largest Buddhist temple and Islamic mosque. Driving the development of these new communities is the fact that Italy, considered by many to be the “gateway” to Europe for refugees and immigrants, has seen its number of foreign-born residents triple in the past decade, now totaling approximately 5.4 million or 9% of the population.
All images copyright Robert Knight
and courtesy of Gallery Kayafas, Boston.
Robert Knight is an assitant professor of art at Hamilton College.