Santi Giovanni e Paolo (Saints John and Paul) is named after two second century saints who were martyred and buried at this location. Under the basilica are several stories of a Roman “insula” or high rise apartment building. According to the museum on location, this is where John and Paul lived. In the same building in the fourth century a certain Pammachius built a house church in the insula. The apartment building was destroyed by the invading Normans in 1084 AD. The present church and bell tower were built over the ruins of the insula in the twelfth century. There are about a dozen rooms that have been excavated and can be visited beneath the basilica. There is much more of the insula visible on another side of the basilica. The museum contains a large number of artifacts discovered during the excavation beneath the basilica.
San Stefano Rotondo is a large round church. It was much larger when first built in the fourth century. It had fallen into disrepair and the current outer walls of the church were built along the first row of interior columns in 1450 AD. The most interesting aspect to the church was the sixteenth century frescoes painted by Pomarancio. Thirty-four frescoes depict many of the methods by which saints have been martyred. Plaques beneath the frescoes name the emperors under whom the methods of martyrdom were used and some of the people who suffered in this way. Many of the plaques are not completely legible. There is a crew in the church undertaking restoration. There are some very gory pictures.
Santa Maria in Domnica is a ninth century church that was substantially altered and renovated in the sixteenth century. However, the mosaics in the apse are the original ninth century mosaics. We had to drop a euro into the timer to get a few minutes of light on them so we could take a picture.
Santi Quattro Coronati honors four saints who were either soldiers or members of the emperor’s court or were marble craftsmen who refused to carve a god out of stone. They were martyred in the third century. The church was built in the fourth century, reinforced as a papal fortress in the ninth century, destroyed by Robert Guiscard and the Normans in 1084 AD, and rebuilt thirty years later. In the same complex is Saint Sylvester’s Chapel. Thirteenth century frescoes depict the legend of Emperor Constantine being cured of leprosy after the intercession of Pope Sylvester (314-335). The photo below is the fourth in the series of seven frescoes. Constantine is here asking for Sylvester’s intercession.
There are six churches located along our street, Via Giulia. There are six additional churches located one block or less away from Via Giulia. There are three very large churches within three blocks of Via Giulia. We have visited only a few of these fifteen churches. All are in use, but the hours that they are open each week may be limited. The larger churches are open every day, morning and afternoon.
Not exactly a church but more of a parish hall is the Oratorio del Gonfalone, just a few blocks from our apartment. We have never seen it open until a few days ago. There was a “Visite” sign in the street. We were surprised to find a stage and the walls of the hall decorated with frescoes of the life of Christ. Amazing! The frescoes date to 1576 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oratorio_del_Gonfalone).