Basilica di Santa Maria in Domnica
Basilica Minore di Santa Maria in Domnica alla Navicella (in Italian)
Facade of Santa Maria in Domnica.
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41°53′4.8″N 12°29′44.1″E / 41.884667°N 12.495583°E / 41.884667; 12.495583
LocationVia della Navicella 10, Rome
DenominationRoman Catholic
TraditionRoman Rite
WebsiteOfficial Website
StatusMinor basilica, titular church
DedicationMary, mother of Jesus
Architectural typeChurch
StyleEarly Christian, Renaissance, Baroque
Groundbreaking5th century AD
Cardinal protectorMarcello Cardinal Semeraro

The Minor Basilica of St. Mary in Domnica alla Navicella (Basilica Minore di Santa Maria in Domnica alla Navicella), or simply Santa Maria in Domnica or Santa Maria alla Navicella, is a Roman Catholic basilica in Rome, Italy, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary and active in local charity according to its long tradition. It is one of the best examples of the Carolingian Renaissance in Rome.[1] It has been the titular church of Cardinal Marcello Semeraro since 28 November 2020.


The appellation "in Domnica" has been differently explained. One interpretation is the derivation from "dominicum" ("of the Lord"), and by extension "church".[2] A second interpretation is that the name derives from the Latin phrase in dominica (praedia) ("on Imperial property").[3] One other possible explanation is that it is almost the only one from the lesser churches in Rome that serves as a station church on a Sunday, namely the second Sunday of Lent[4] (dominica means "Sunday" in Latin; the other such church is San Pancrazio which serves as station for Low Sunday), so given the huge number of churches dedicated to the Blessed Virgin this might have been chosen as identifier.

Another interpretation is that it refers to the name of Cyriaca, a Christian woman who resided nearby and whose name denotes "belonging to the Lord": "Dominica" in Latin.[5] According to this tradition, Cyriaca was a wealthy widow, whose home was used as a meeting-place for some of the first Christians of Rome. Saint Lawrence used to distribute alms here.[4] After his death, Cyriaca arranged the burial in her family catacomb cemetery, where the basilica San Lorenzo fuori le Mura now stands.[6]

Fontana della Navicella

The appellation "alla Navicella" denotes "near the little ship", and refers to the sculpture of a Roman ship[7] that has been in this location since ancient times, possibly as a votive offering at an ancient temple. Pope Leo X turned it into a fountain (Fontana della Navicella) in front of the church.


The basilica was built in ancient times, close to the barracks of the Fifth Cohort of the Roman Vigiles on the Caelian Hill. It is mentioned in the records of a synod of Pope Symmachus in AD 499. In 678, it was one of seven churches assigned to deacons by Pope Agatho.[7] The basilica was rebuilt from 818 to 822 by Pope Paschal I, and included mosaic decoration. Pope Paschal I is credited with Rome's early 9th century age of renovation and artistic splendor.

Benedict, legate to the Latin Empire (1205–1207), began his career as a cardinal in Santa Maria in 1200–1201. A small Olivetan monastery was established here in 1340.[7]

The Medici family extensively modified the interior in the 16th century, because some of them were the cardinal holders of the archdeaconate through much of that century.[8] Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici (1488), was followed by his first cousin, Giulio di Giuliano de 'Medici, (1513). Giovanni di Cosimo I de' Medici became cardinal-deacon at the age of 17 in 1560, but died of malaria in 1562. He was followed by his brother Ferdinando I de' Medici, who later became Grand Duke of Tuscany.



In 1488, Lorenzo de' Medici prevailed on his relative Pope Innocent VIII to name his son, Giovanni Cardinal-deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica when he was age 13,[9] although he was not allowed to wear the insignia until three years later. In 1513, shortly before he became Pope Leo X, Cardinal de' Medici, in conjunction with Andrea Sansovino, added the facade portico with Tuscan columns and the fountain.

The facade of the basilica, attributed to Sansovino, is in the Renaissance style, and has a porch with five arches separated by travertine pilasters, with two square and one round window. The tympanum has the coat of arms of Pope Innocent VIII in the center, and that of cardinals Giovanni and Ferdinando de' Medici on the sides. The inconspicuous bell tower houses a bell from 1288.


View of the nave towards apse
Apse mosaic (9th century) commissioned by Pope Paschal I

The interior of the basilica retains its 9th century plan, and consists of a nave and two lateral aisles of equal length and separated by 18 granite columns which were spolia from an ancient temple and crowned with Corinthian capitals. The wall above the windows was frescoed by Perin del Vaga, based on designs of Giulio Romano.

The nave has frescos by Lazzaro Baldi. The coffered ceiling, donated by Ferdinando I de' Medici, has the Medici coat of arms in the center, with symbolic representations of Noah's Ark and Solomon's Temple.

The triumphal arch at the apse is flanked by two porphyry columns. The mosaics of the apse from the 9th century, were commissioned by Pope Paschal I[7] and depict Christ with two angels, and the twelve Apostles, with Moses and Elijah shown underneath. In the semi-dome, Pope Paschal (with a square halo) sitting at the foot of the Blessed Virgin Mary, vested as a Byzantine noblewoman, seated on a throne with the Christ Child, and surrounded by a multitude of angels.


  1. ^ "Church of Santa Maria in Domnica alla Navicella", Turismo Roma
  2. ^ Armellini.
  3. ^ Lansford.
  4. ^ a b "Sunday: Santa Maria in Domnica", PNAC
  5. ^ Thayer
  6. ^ "Santa Maria in Domnica", Churches of Rome
  7. ^ a b c d Tribe, Shawn. "Minor Roman Basilicas:Santa Maria i Domnica", Liturgical Arts Journal, July 29, 2022
  8. ^ "Church of Santa Maria in Domnica", Religiana
  9. ^ "Leo X". Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. Vol. 13. C. Knight. 1839. pp. 426–428.


Media related to Santa Maria in Domnica at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Santa Maria in Cosmedin
Landmarks of Rome
Santa Maria in Domnica
Succeeded by
Santa Maria in Ara Coeli