Skip to comments.Lenten Station Churches of Rome - - FRIDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY: SANTI GIOVANNI E PAOLO
Posted on 02/24/2012 2:07:37 PM PST by NYer
Passing under the arches which stretch over the Clivio Scauri we come around the side of this ancient church, built over several Roman ruins. Among these is the house in which the patrons of this church witnessed to their faith with their lives. Ss. John and Paul were soldiers who were chosen to serve as functionaries in the Imperial household in the middle of the fourth century. Although the Imperial family was often in heresy with regard to many of the theological disputes of this time, these two saints were able to continue in their offices while holding to the orthodox faith. However, when Julian the Apostate ascended to the throne in 360, they were forced with the decision either to embrace the renewed pagan religion or face death. They refused to cooperate with the Emperors demands, and so were executed in their home on this site and buried nearby. Although such an execution within the city walls was illegal, it is thought that the emperor sought to be as discreet as possible about this matter because of the unpopularity of his command.
After the death of Julian in 363, work began to perpetuate the memory of the saints. This site had already been a location of Christian worship at the time of the saints martyrdom, with one of the early tituli, known as the Titulus Bizantis, located nearby. In the late fourth and early fifth century a Roman senator named Pammachius built a basilica in honor of the two saints over their house and those surrounding. This new basilica served as the seat of the Titulus Pammachii, and although the older titulus was based in the same location it seems that they maintained separate legal existences for at least a century. Likely completed before 410, the church was further decorated in the middle of the fifth century. The basilica did not experience any major events of note until the late eleventh century. At that time, during one of the conflicts between the pope and others in Rome the pontiff had been driven from the city. Attempting to retake the city, he enlisted the aid of a Norman army. However, when the attack occurred in 1084 not only did the pillaging army cause much destruction, but also the fires which sprang up amidst the chaos. Along with many other churches in the area, this basilica also suffered heavy damage, with repairs taking place in the early twelfth century. Later that century the porch and campanile were both built.
The church would be renovated several times between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, with the current interior dating largely from a renovation from 1715-18. In the late 1850s, the sacristy was added, as well as a large chapel dedicated to St. Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionist order which serves the basilica. In the late nineteenth century, archeological excavations and studies of the Roman ruins beneath the house began, with the results being open to the public as a museum today. From 1948 to 1950, a restoration/renovation was carried out by the Cardinal Spellman of New York, who held the title to this church at that time. During this time the façade was returned to its medieval appearance. The interior was also restored; among the additions were chandeliers that had previously hung in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. Therefore, the basilica today is a palimpsest of architectural history, from the Roman ruins that make up the foundations, to the modern chandeliers hanging in the nave.
The major change is due to the dome built in 1851 to cover an added chapel; the façade of the church shows a series of modifications made in 1950-52 to enhance its medieval features; it has to be said that the final result combines elements of the Vth century with others of the XIIIth century when the former had already been modified. Nonetheless, the square is one of the most charming sites of Rome (read Henry James's account of his visit to this site in 1873).
SS. Giovanni e Paolo
The history of the church and of the two saints to whom it is dedicated go back to the IVth century; according to tradition John and Paul, two young men, were put to death during the reign of Emperor Julian (361-63), because they refused to worship the pagan gods; however historians claim that the emperor did not persecute the Christians in the western part of the empire and that the devotion to John and Paul was based on accounts related to other martyrs.
Archaeologists have ascertained that the Roman houses found under the church were inhabited by Christians and that a section of them was turned into a funerary chapel at the time of the assumed martyrdom of the two saints (these houses can now be visited). A basilica was built above them in the Vth century and its façade was crowned by a small loggia supported by ancient columns; the columns were later on incorporated into brick pillars and in the XIIIth century the loggia disappeared behind a gallery built above a long portico; the fine decoration of the apse belongs to that period. Later on the portico was partially closed and in 1718 the interior of the church was given a baroque aspect (you may wish to see the building as it appeared in a 1588 Guide to Rome).
The bell tower was built in the XIIth century on the substructures supporting a terrace having at its centre a temple dedicated to Emperor Claudius. The medieval windows of the old monastery (to the left of the bell tower) are another result of the 1952 changes.
Clivo di Scauro
The narrow street which goes down to S. Gregorio is flanked on the left by old walls of Roman buildings. The arches were added in the XIIIth century to better support the church, with the exception of the highest one which dates back to the Vth century. Clivo means slope whereas Scauro is probably a reference to the Aemilii Scauri, an ancient Roman family.
Tempio di Claudio
At the death of Emperor Claudius in 54 AD his wife Agrippina promoted the construction of a temple dedicated to him on the northern part of the Celio hill: Roman architects modified the hill to obtain a large terrace at the centre of which the temple was to be built. Work was soon halted by Emperor Nero which included the area in his Domus Aurea; instead of a temple to his stepfather he preferred to have a large fountain. The temple was eventually built by Emperor Vespasian: it is entirely lost.
In 1880 excavations to open a new street leading to the Colosseum brought to light the eastern flank of the terrace; its walls still show the masonry skills achieved by the Romans: they were decorated with niches, but these had also a practical purpose because they increased the resistance of the structure.
Excerpts from Giuseppe Vasi 1761 Itinerary related to this page:
Every year for Lent I give up my New Year’s resolutions.
And NYer, are you the one posting these beautiful Lenten churches from Rome? They’ve been just wonderful; some we searched out when we were in Rome, but some we missed. Thanks for the EWTN post, too. We’ll be sure to keep an eye out. Lenten greetings.
Hi bboop! Yes .. one of my lenten missions this year is to post the daily Lenten Station Church. I agree with you ... the history of the saints for whom these churches are named is truly inspiring.
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