A monastery and a basilica are not the same thing, though we tend to conflate them.
A monastery is a place where religious clergy devote their lives in isolation. Think of cloistered monks and nuns living in seclusion. A monastery has no public functions. A basilica, on the other hand, is a public place where people gather to worship and pray. A cathedral or basilica is a house of worship and can also be a legislative seat where church officials make rulings on the issues of the day.
Let's look at four major Italian basilicas named after important Catholic saints.
Saint Peter's Basilica
In the Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica in St. Peter's Square needs no introduction. The official shrine of the Catholic Church, millions of visitors come to worship before the pope and to be moved by its exquisite Renaissance art collection, with La Pietà by Michelangelo and a bronze statue of St. Peter featured prominently. The original building was built in the 4th century AD, and was replaced by the present one completed in 1626. The basilica and the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo, will always be a world famous destination. St. Peter's Basilica was built on the site of the tomb of the first pope, St. Peter himself. Many popes are buried in the Sacred Grottoes beneath the basilica.
The Pontifical Basilica of Saint Anthony
Construction of the basilica, the largest church in Padua, began in the 13th century after the death of St. Anthony to whom it was enshrined. This international shrine, a magnet to Catholics and others the world over, is one of the West's most celebrated and popular churches. The medieval building has no definite style but was influenced by Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice. It chief architect is unknown, though the style blends Romanesque and Gothic approaches.
Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi
The Sanctuary of Assisi in Umbria is one of the oldest existing Gothic churches in Italy. Frescoes painted by Cimabue, Giotto, Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti cover its walls. The World Heritage Committee included the basilica in its most recommended places to go. It is a benchmark of beauty in the history of art and has influenced art as well as architecture. The celebration for St. Francis, Italy’s most beloved saint, occurs every October 4. He led a humble and poor existence, and is beloved by Catholics. His mortal remains are preserved here, making it a destination for thousands of devoted religious pilgrims.
Saint Mary of Venezia
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, known simply as the Salute, is in Venice between the Grand Canal and the Bacino di San Marco on the lagoon. The Salute is a vast, octagonal building sitting on a platform of wooden pilings. The dome of the Salute was an important addition to the Venetian skyline, and became emblematic of the city just as the domes of the Cathedral in Florence and St. Peter's in Rome were defining features of those cities. The Baroque high altar arrangement features a Byzantine Madonna and Child, circa 1250. The most prominent artist whose work was displayed in the church is Titian, who painted St. Mark enthroned with Saints Cosmas, Damian, Sebastian and Roch, as well as ceiling paintings of David and Goliath, Abraham and Isaac, and Cain and Abel.