The century-old history of the Basilica of St. Bartholomew begins on the Tiber Island, one of the first inhabited areas of the ancient city of Rome. At the time of the Roman Empire, an ancient temple dedicated to the god Aesculapius was built in the area where the Basilica now stands, and people from all over the city came to ask for healing from their ailments.
In year 997, the German Emperor Otto III decided to honour two important saints: Bartholomew the Apostle, and Adalbert, a well-known martyr killed while he was in mission preaching the Gospel in Poland. The Basilica was built to keep the bodies of these two martyrs.
Throughout the centuries, the Basilica gathered several noteworthy works of sacred art within its walls. We will mention only a few of them: the stone well-head dating back to the 10th century, standing on top of a spring that was considered miraculous, with carved images of the Risen Christ, Saint Bartholomew, Saint Adalbert, and Emperor Otto III; the cycle of frescos of Antonio Carracci and Giovan Battista Mercati; the high altar made from a porphyry fountain basin dating back to the Roman Empire; the medieval crypt with the Ottonian columns and capitals; the mosaic of the XIII century depicting a Blessing Christ on the ancient façade of the Basilica.
The Basilica of St. Bartholomew is now a place of living prayer and dialogue. In 1993 it was entrusted to the care of the Community of Sant’Egidio: university and high school students of the Community now gather in the basilica for liturgy and prayer, using the surrounding halls and rooms for their activities in favour of the poor.
The Community is well-known for its commitment to ecumenism, and along the years the basilica has become the focus of several initiatives: its history and artistic heritage make it a privileged place to gather together representatives and believers from the various Christian denominations.