Santa Croce in Gerusalemme Rome, Italy

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Holly Hayes All Images »

Often overlooked by non-pilgrims, the Basilica di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is located just down the road from St. John Lateran in Rome. It includes the private chapel of St. Helen (Emperor Constantine's mother), which occupies part of her 4th-century palace; an impressive collection of relics brought by Helen from Jerusalem (including parts of the True Cross and Doubting Thomas' finger); and a full-size replica of the Shroud of Turin.

Facts & Stats

Go Historic ID
Best Known As
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Full Name
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Also Known As
Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem
41.888094° N, 12.515928° E  (map)
Piazza di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
Rome, Italy


  • commented on July 15, 2013:

    When my husband and I visited Santa Croce in July 2006, we were the only visitors for some time. This would have been surprising given its many attractions and religious importance, except that my specialty guidebook had used words like "much-neglected" and "overlooked" to describe the church. By the time we left, however, there were about 10 other visitors in the church.

    Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is just a short walk down the road from the more famous San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran) - just follow the Roman city wall east, past the large gate (Porto Maggiore). The area around Santa Croce is not terribly attractive - it was somewhat run-down and there was an impromptu flea market taking up much of the sidewalk - but until recently, it was located in quite rural surroundings. There is still a grassy area along the sidewalk leading to the church, at least, and on the left side of the church.

    Inside the basilica, we were impressed by the beautiful decorations of the apse, but what really set the church apart from the other grand churches of Rome is the downstairs Chapel of St. Helen and the upstairs Chapel of the Holy Relics.

    The Chapel of Helen was very interesting in that it was a converted part of a Roman palace, which is apparent both in the lower floor level and the vaulted ceiling. I was impressed to think that St. Helena may have said her daily prayers on this very spot more than 1,600 years ago.

    The modern Chapel of the Relics was also interesting architecturally - it's not often you see stern, concrete Fascist architecture in a church. But it is not unattractive, and it's the relics that are the major draw. They are enclosed in a glass case behind the chapel's altar, each in its own glittering, specially-designed reliquary. I found the Good Thief's cross (the largest relic I've seen) and the Title of the Cross the most interesting, as they are quite unique and the latter has some claim to authenticity.

    As I was examining the relics and taking lots of pictures (see photo gallery) in the Chapel of the Relics, my husband struck up a conversion with a friendly monk at the base of the stairs. Sadly we didn't catch his name, but he is likely Brother Joseph, whom Angela Pometto met a few months earlier (see Sources). He spoke excellent English and had lived in the UK for some time. He helped me find the "TITULUS CRUCIS" brick (I missed it, embedded in the wall by the stairs), told me which relic was which (they aren't labeled), and pointed out the image of Christ on the Shroud of Turin replica and the statue of Christ based on it. The monk also confirmed that the basilica doesn't get all that many visitors, despite its religious importance and historical interest.

    Back on the main floor, there were several other rooms and chapels to wander around. In my explorations I came upon some small statues behind glass, a large room with an exhibition on Nennolina's life, and a sacristy with a neat row of white robes.

    We bought a small book on the church in the small gift shop, presided over by another monk who was cleaning the windows as we browsed. There is so much to explore in this basilica, and it is so conveniently located next to San Giovanni in Laterano (and a Metro stop), that it really shouldn't be missed. It was one of the most memorable parts of our trip.