The Basilica of the Santi Quattro Coronati was built in the 4th century and boasts Rome‘s oldest bell-tower. It was, thanks to its proximity to the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran, an important church at the time. The main reason to visit the church is the San Silvestro Chapel.
Santi Quattro Coronati Basilica Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via dei Santi Quattro, 20 – Rome (tel. +39 06 70475427). Opening hours: The basilica itself, the cloister and the San Silvestro Oratorium are opened from 10.00 till 11.45 and from 16.00 till 17.45. Closed: Sunday mornings. During mass it is not possible to visit the church. Admission: The church is free, the cloister costs 3 Euros, for the chapel of San Silvestro a donation is required. The chapel is not in the church itself, but to the right of the courtyard. Knock on the door opposite the chapel entrance in order to be let in.
History and description
The Chiesa dei Santi Quattro Coronati is dedicated to 4 soldiers who, during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, refused to execute a group of Christians after which they were themselves condemned to the death penalty and thus became martyrs. Calling the church the Chiesa di Severo, Severiano, Carpofero e Vittorino would have been a bit of a mouthful, so it came to be called the “Church of the Four Holy Crowned Ones”.
After the Normans had destroyed the church (1084) Pope Pasquale II had it rebuilt, albeit smaller and with two courtyards. The only part of the original church that survived was the apse, which indeed seems too big for the nave. Two rows of columns divide the nave into three parts. The two side aisles were incorporated into the Palazzo Cardinale (on the right) and the Benedictine Convent (on the left).
The church was consecrated in 1116.
In the 13th century a Cosmatesque (a floor mosaic that was very popular at the time, practiced by the Cosmati family) cloister was added. The Palazzo Cardinale was enlarged and later even changed into a fortress.
Later, when the Pope moved to Avignon, the church was left to decline. When he returned to Rome and changed his residence from the Saint John in Lateran to Saint Peter’s Basilica the Santi Quattro Coronati lost much of its influence.
In 1564 the Benedictines handed the church over to the Augustinians.
The martyrs are buried in a crypt in the Cimitero dei Santi Marcellino e Pietro on the Via Labicana, while the head of one of the quartet is supposed to be buried in the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin.
Tourist Attractions Santi Quattro Coronati Church Rome
Chapel of San Silvestro
The most important work of art in the Santi Quattro Coronati is the Chapel of Saint Sylvester, where the Legend of the Law of Constantine (Constitutum Constantini) is depicted. The Law of Constantine is supposed to bolster the Church’s claim that its power is based on an imperial edict.
A number of frescoes by Giovanni da San Giovanni can be admired and in 2002 another set of frescoes was discovered behind a layer of black chalk, depicting the Four Seasons, the Twelve Months, the Zodiac and the Seven Free Arts, plus a portrait of King Salomon.