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Can a Jew visit the main attractions in Rome? Including the Vatican, the Vatican museums, the Pantheon, St Peter's Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel. It's a two-part question, first of all, are these considered churches even if they are basically tourist attractions, and second, does it make it a difference that I am going there for the art and nothing else?

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  • Don’t know the answer to whether those are considered churches or not, but if they are you are not allowed to enter them even to view or admire the artwork, as discussed in Avodah Zara 17a and as virtually everyone holds. A more interesting question would be can you visit things like the arch of Titus which displays the Jews’ downfall, or the colosseum where perhaps many enslaved Jews had been murdered and is the symbol of the Roman Empire and all that they stand for Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 3:41
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    Why would you go? To see artwork celebrating a heretical movement that historically persecuted Jews? And a lot of the art is not tznius either.
    – N.T.
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 3:47
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    Note that when someone quotes relevant answers (like I did above), they appear with their title on the right side under the Linked section - easier to see what they are this way
    – mbloch
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 4:01
  • I visited Rome as a Noahide and was genuinely shocked by the excessive nudity portrayed in the artwork, particularly those involving children. Blatant idolatry. Left me with a sick feeling. The beauty you think you'll see is not worth what you'll walk away from there with. And many of them are still active churches holding regular "mass." Sometimes while visitors are filing through the halls.
    – user34203
    Commented Jan 14 at 18:53

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You ask regarding a mix of active churches and other Christian sites. You should research which of these sites are used to worship other deities, in which case the halacha below applies, and which sites are of a different type (e.g., museums).

Regarding churches, R Doniel Neustadt answers here that "practically speaking, however, the vast majority of the poskim agree that Christianity is considered avodah zarah and a Jew is forbidden to enter a church."

It is clearly prohibited to enter a house of avodah zarah. The Mishnah prohibits one from even entering a city in which avodah zarah is present. Since it is impossible for us, who live in exile, to adhere to this prohibition, we are considered anusim—under duress—in this regard. Entering an actual house of avodah zarah, however, is clearly prohibited2.

What remains to be clarified, however, is whether or not a church or a mosque is a house of avodah zarah. The poskim are not uniform in their classification of Christians as idol-worshipers. Although the Rambam rules unequivocally that Christians are idol-worshipers, other Rishonim are more tentative. Their view is based on the assumption that non-Jews are considered idol-worshipers only if they totally reject the existence of G-d. Christianity, however, combines the belief in G-d with other idolatrous and alien beliefs. Such a theology is called avodah zarah b’shituf (in combination). Some poskim rule that avodah zarah b’shituf is not considered full-fledged avodah zarah, while others maintain that it is.

Moreover, there is a view that gentiles nowadays cannot be considered idol-worshipers since they are merely following in the tradition of their parents (without actually worshipping idols).

See there for sources of the above statements, see also here and here. Regarding Christian cemeteries (which is generally allowed) see here.

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  • Would point out that even if it is shittuf and permissible for a non-Jew, it would still be A"Z by Jewish standards and likely assur to enter
    – AKA
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 20:22

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