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Fitness / Practicalities
Tour Director

  • Uncover the various historical layers of Rome’s churches and basilicas while exploring the development of early Christian art in Rome

  • Soak up the Vatican’s awe-inspiring atmosphere, visiting St Peter’s Basilica and examining the papal tombs in the underground Necropolis

  • Experience extraordinary frescoes in situ, including at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Trace the development of early Christian art in the unique context of Rome, where it evolved from the fugitive imagery of a persecuted cult, into the triumphant representation of imperial piety.


Highlights of our itinerary will include a visit to the excavated Necropolis under St Peter’s Basilica, with its 3rd century mosaic believed to portray Christ as the sun-god Apollo, and Santa Sabina, the oldest surviving Roman basilica in the city. Another memorable visit will be to the Scala Sancta of the Sancta Sanctorum chapel, said to be the steps taken by Jesus Christ on his way to trial by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, which were subsequently brought to Rome in the 4th century by Saint Helena.


In the 4th century Church of Santa Costanza, originally built as a mausoleum, we will discover some of the most important early Christian art in the world. The splendid mosaics, depicting scenes of grape harvesting and details of birds and foliage, aptly illustrate Constantine’s policy of repurposing old pagan motifs for Christian imagery.


We will examine a succession of popes responsible for some of the unique images of the Virgin Mary to be found in Rome, from Sixtus III, who built the immense Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, to Nicholas IV, who centuries later commissioned Torriti to produce the Coronation of the Virgin mosaic in its apse.


Our investigation will also consider the development of the ‘Roman’ school, characterised by Pietro Cavallini, whose Last Judgment mural in Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is celebrated as his masterwork.


We will stay throughout at the three-star Albergo Santa Chiara, situated in the very heart of Rome, a stone’s throw from the Pantheon.


This tour will be led by Eireann Marshall, PhD, a Research Associate and Associate Lecturer with the Open University. Eireann was raised in the Veneto and educated at Barnard College, Columbia University, as well as the universities of Birmingham and Exeter. She is an experienced tour leader, having led many tours throughout Europe and North Africa. Eireann has published a number of articles on Ancient North Africa, and co-edited books on classical civilisation.


Tour Director Eireann Marshall writes:


“Early Christian Rome is interesting for me as it considers the metamorphosis of Rome from the caput mundi to the heart of the Christian world. Exploring the earliest surviving Christian monuments in order to consider the transformation of Roman traditions lies at the heart of understanding the foundations of European history.”

Tour Code

Included: return airfare, accommodation based on sharing a standard twin or double bedded room, five breakfasts, four dinners with wine, water & coffee, excursions & admissions, gratuities & all taxes.

Not Included: travel insurance, superior single room supplement £165.

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