Abbazia delle Tre Fontane, Rome

A historic abbey off the Rome tourist trail

The Abbazia delle Tre Fontane, which translates as the Abbey of the Three Fountains, is a peaceful spot historically associated with St. Paul, located to the south of central Rome.

The Abbazia delle Tre Fontane is a historic Cistercian monastery, situated close to the modernist suburb of EUR. There has been a monastic settlement here since at least the seventh century, built on what is supposedly the site of St. Paul’s martyrdom. When the saint was beheaded, three springs or fountains are said to have sprung up in the three spots where his head bounced on the ground, and the religious foundation commemorates this miracle. At a much later date the malarial surroundings led to abbey being abandoned, until the arrival of the Trappist order in 1868. The Trappist monks still occupy the monastery, growing eucalyptus trees and producing herbal remedies, liqueurs and chocolates.

There are three churches on the site, set among quiet and leafy gardens. The first is Santi Vincenzo ed Anastasio, originally dating to the seventh century and rebuilt in the thirteenth. Inside this large and simple basilica are the sites of the three legendary springs. On the right is the lovely octagonal Santa Maria Scala Coeli, a sixteenth-century gem by Giacomo della Porta. Furthest from the entrance, and the most interesting, is the church of San Paolo alle Tre Fontane, also by della Porta. This small church contains some lovely pieces of Roman mosaic, removed from the ruins of Ostia Antica, and also the stone column to which St. Paul was supposedly bound.

Tre Fontane is a peaceful spot, with just a sprinkling of local visitors during the day. Unless you have a particular interest in the site, it’s rather an out-of-the-way addition to a tourist itinerary. But if you are passing, or visiting nearby EUR, it makes an interesting detour. The chocolate bars sold in the monastery’s little shop are highly recommended.

Pedestrians approaching the abbey on foot will have to brave the wide and busy roads nearby. It is just off Via Laurentina, to the east of EUR – from the busy Via Cristoforo Colombo, follow Viale delle Tre Fontane to reach the abbey. The nearest bus route is the infrequent 761, but the abbey is within walking distance of EUR’s transport links. The nearest Metro stop is Laurentina (the end of Linea B). The full address is Via Acque Salvie.

On this site

EUR district

Useful external links

Abbazia delle Tre Fontane