Although the San Sebastiano al Palatino Church in Rome was built on the hill of the same name, it is located within the gated area of the Palatine Hill. The frescoes in the apse date from the 10th century.
San Sebastiano al Palatino Church Rome
Address, opening hours and entrance fee
Address: Via di San Bonaventura, 1 – Rome. District: Campitelli. Telephone: (+39) 06 6784236. Opening Hours: The church is not open to tourists, but ringing the bell sometimes seems to help.
The church was erected in the 10 century, near the place where San Sebastiano died the death of a martyr. At that time it was still called Santa Maria in Palladio and there was also a monastery attached to it.
San Sebastiano was an officer in the army of Emperor Domitian. According to legend, the saint was pierced by arrows on the steps of the Temple of the Sun, erected by the Emperor Heliogabalus, by order of the emperor. He was left for dead to be eaten by wild animals, but a woman named Irene managed to bring him to her home alive. Once healed, he returned to the emperor to testify to his faith, whereupon the latter had him scourged to death. To prevent the Christians from finding his body, his remains were thrown into the Cloaca Maxima.
The foundation of the Temple of the Sun is located partly under, and partly behind, the church itself. This second part is still visible. This foundation measured 150 by 110 meters, while the temple itself was 60 by 40 meters. The most important sacred objects of Rome were kept here. These were the simulacrum of Cybele, the fire of Vesta, the Palladium, and 12 sacred shields called the ancilia.
In 1061, the Benedictine Montecassino Abbey gained control of the church.
At the beginning of the 14th century, the complex was left to its own devices. The Capranica family bought the dilapidated building and had it converted into a country house.
In 1630, Taddeo Barbarini, the grandson of Pope Urban VIII, took possession of it. He had the church rebuilt and dedicated the building to St. Sebastian. The architect in charge of the restoration was named Luigi Arrigucci. During the work, the frescoes in the nave and in the presbytery were destroyed.
Since 1920 the church has been state property.
What to see
The bees on the simple but elegant facade are symbols of the Barberini family.
The altarpiece at the main altar, “Martyrdom of San Sebastiano” was painted in 1633 by Andrea Cammassei da Bevagna. The altar is further graced by two columns.
Some frescoes from the original church can still be seen in the apse. An epigraph indicates that these were painted by one Petrus Medicus.