Like the Chiesa Nuova and Sant’Ivo, San Nicola in Carcere is ridiculously centrally located in Rome in one of the most obvious sites in the city– just down the hill from the Campidoglio and next to the Teatro Marcello. I’d passed it about nine million times. And despite having been told YEARS ago that it had a crazy-fascinating crypt with ruins and the church was built within the remains of a pagan temple, eh, I just hadn’t gone in.
Until now. I was wandering around one morning, being surprisingly sidetracked by a breast cancer race through the center, and I noticed while trying to weave my way around and through the thousands of racers that this Church was open. So in I went.
It’s a little church, baroqued like nearly all of them, but what makes San Nicola in Carcere great is the crypt/ruins below. When you decend down below the altar (which you have to ask to do and pay 3 euros for), you find in the basement the remains of Republican era temple bases.
These are the temples of Janus and Juno, which were originally part of the Forum Holitorium. And although they look a bit like undistinguishable rocks, it is places like these that give you a few moments of peace with Rome’s insanely deep history. I was in this place by myself. By myself people. All alone. It was cool, a bit damp, and had piles of what looked like bones. Creepy, historical, and underground. The three most excellent characteristics of anywhere in Rome!