Rome is home to more than 900 churches spread across its territory. In fact, no other city in the world has as many churches as the Italian capital. Most of these places of worship are catholic, however, according to a recent report by the Osservatore Romano on migration, devotees of the majority of the world’s faiths are also present in the city.
Contributing to the harmony between so many different faiths is the Tavolo Interreligioso di Roma (Rome Interreligious Table), a union of Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Orthodox Christians and Protestants that, since 1998, the year of its foundation, has been promoting dialogue between the religions.
Rome therefore appears to be the ideal place in which to encounter the most disparate creeds: its varied panorama ranges from lay movements to Abrahamic and polytheist traditions, to newer currents such as the Human Potential Movement. This diversity is a direct consequence of immigration, a phenomenon that has seen the arrival in the Italian capital of ancient traditions, which in some cases have ended up being woven into the social fabric of the city.
In the city that is also home to the Vatican, some religions have managed to construct places of worship of architectural importance or even monumental grandeur, while others are confined to more modest structures, sometimes in simple apartments where the faithful congregate whenever possible. In both cases, however, it is always possible to identify the fulcrum, a sort of nerve centre where the altar, statue, sacred book or any other object of ritual importance can be found.
The interiors of these buildings – sometimes brightly coloured and other times more subdued, the presence or absence of seats, books or icons, the sobriety or complexity of the decoration – offer a revealing clue to the ritual form of the corresponding faith, and at the same time a surprising journey into the city’s extraordinary religious ecosystem.