The basilica is the most important church of Veroli because it was built where the body of Santa Salome was buried and houses the relics of the patron saint of the city and mother of the apostles James the Greater and John, which arrived here from Palestine. Maria Salome was under the cross at the crucifixion, assisted with the burial of Jesus and finally was one of the witnesses of the resurrection. The story tells that Maria Salome and her son Saint John went to Ephesus in Turkey where the governor was found to be from Veroli.
The church began as a small place of worship to keep the body of the saint in 1209, and which today is the crypt of the church. A story tells how the tomb was found thanks to a dream in which St. Peter had indicated to a Verolano the place of burial.
The initial oratory was gradually enlarged until it was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1350 and re-consecrated in 1492. In the 1700s it was then completely rebuilt and only some frescoes and small portions remain from the previous Gothic church.
In the eighteenth century two Tuscan bishops brought numerous painters to Veroli to paint the interior walls of the church.
The interior is divided into three naves and a large image of Santa Salome created by Cavalier d’Arpino (Caravaggio’s master) is immediately apparent on the central apse.
Under the high altar there is a ‘confession’, that is a marble staircase leading to a small room on a lower level where in an urn is the heart of Santa Maria Salome and there are urns with the relics of Saint Blaise and Saint Demetrius, companions of the saint.
Next to the altar on the left aisle there are 13th century frescoes and on the right an incredible triptych from 1561.
The church houses a 12 steps stairway and in the eleventh step there is a fragment of the holy cross in a small case in the step. The staircase was built by Bishop Tartagni with the permission of Pope Benedict XIV and offers the same privileges as that of Rome: the believer who climbs the stairs on his knees obtains the plenary indulgence if he complies with the instructions on a plaque placed near the stairs.
The basilica also has a Holy Door, which is opened on 24 May on the occasion of the feast of the patron saint, and is twinned with the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome.
Next to the triptych there is a large painting, attributed to Francesco Solimena (1657-1747), which depicted the various Franciscan Orders and the Virgin Mary who delivered their ‘cincture’, symbol of union. Among other works we must mention frescoes by Frezzi, a Christ and Saints attributed to Giuseppe Passeri, a painting by Solimena, a Christ King of Scacciafoni and a wooden statue of Santa Salome in Baroque style.
The large dome is decorated with frescoes by Giacinto Brandi (1623-1690).