The church of Santa Francesca Romana is the only surviving example of a christian site in the Roman Forum. The church’s official name is Santa Maria Nova, though most locals prefer its less official title. The current building dates in part to the 10th century AD, and occupies part of the site of the great second-century temple of Venus Felix founded by the emperor Hadrian. The dominant travertine marble facade was added in the 16th century.
Inside, visitors can see the huge painting known as Vergine col Bambino (virgin with child). Dating back to the 6th century AD, it’s one of the oldest pieces of Christian art in existence anywhere in the world. The church also contains the preserved remains of Saint Frances, a nun who founded the religious order Olivetan Oblates of Mary in the 15th century, and for whom the church is named.