Where can I see Caravaggios for free in Rome?

Visitors to Rome are privileged enough to be able to see no less than six stunning Caravaggios in their original settings, completely free.

Born in 1571 in Milan, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was a groundbreaking renaissance painter who pioneered use of the chiaroscuro (light/dark) technique, and the use of real models he’d chosen from ‘the street’.

His unorthodox painting choices – as revolutionary at the time as Picasso was in the 20th Century – and his scandalous lifestyle generated a huge amount of notoriety which probably enhanced his popularity rather than damaged it, but it was this boistrousness that eventually cut his life short in 1610 as he returned to Rome to beg forgiveness for the violent act that had caused him to flee the city in 1606.

Despite the scandals that surrounded him, the paintings he was commissioned to paint were almost exclusively religious, and were usually commissioned by rich families for their private chapels within the churches of Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily.

Three churches in the historic centre of Rome still preserve Caravaggios in their original setting, and it costs nothing to view them. They’re also within walking distance of each other – less than a mile apart in a fascinating ancient part of the city.

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Caravaggios in Rome

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Santa Maria del Popolo: 41.911450, 12.476311
San Luigi dei Francesi: 41.899574, 12.474399
Chiesa di Sant’Agostino: 41.901045, 12.474302
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Santa Maria del Popolo

Santa Maria del Popolo


Conversion-on-the-Road-to-DamascusTwo of the most famous Caravaggios grace the walls of the Cerasi chapel in this fascinating 11th-century church. Flanking an altarpiece by Carracci, the 1601 masterpieces depict the patron saints of Rome: on the left is the Martyrdom of St Peter, and on the right, the Conversion of St Paul.

Santa Maria del Popolo, Piazza del Popolo, Rome, Italy
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San Luigi dei Francesi

The Matthew Cycle


The_Inspiration_of_Saint_MatthewHome to no less than three Caravaggios, the paintings line each wall of the Contarelli chapel in the church of St Louis of the French. The paintings are known as the St Matthew Cycle and depict the saint's Inspiration, his Calling, and his Martyrdom. Completed in 1600, these were among the first pieces that Caravaggio painted in Rome, and his embracing of, rather than rebellion against, the typical gloom of a Roman church was absolutely revolutionary and led to his wider fame.

San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome, Italy
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Chiesa di Sant’Agostino

Madonna di Loreto


madonna_dei_pellegriniCommissioned for the Cavaletti family chapel within St Augustine's church, this 1606 painting caused controversy when it was first unveiled because Mary's doorway was not considered sufficiently grand, and the feet of the pilgrims were authentically filthy.
Also known as Madonna dei Pellegrini: Madonna of the Pilgrims

Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, Piazza di Sant'Agostino, Rome, Italy

Other Caravaggios in Rome can be seen by buying tickets to the the Galeria Borghese, the Vatican Museums, the Capitoline Museums, the Palazzo Corsini, the Galeria Doria Paphilj, and most memorably to this author, Judith Beheading Holofernes is housed with other examples of his work in the Palazzo Barberini.