Basilica of Saints John and Paul

Rome, Italy

The Basilica of Saints John and Paul on the Caelian Hill was built in 398 AD over the home of two Roman soldiers, John and Paul, martyred under the emperor Julian in 362. The church was thus called the Titulus Pammachii and is recorded as such in the acts of the synod held by Pope Symmachus in 499.

The church was damaged during the sack by Alaric I (410) and because of an earthquake (442), restored by Pope Paschal I (824), sacked again by the Normans (1084), and again restored, with the addition of a monastery and a bell tower.

The church has three naves, with pillars joined to the original columns. The altar is built over a bath, which holds the remains of the two martyrs. The apse is frescoed with Christ in Glory (1588) by Cristoforo Roncalli. Below this fresco are three paintings: a Martyrdom of St John, a Martyrdom of St Paul, and the Conversion of Terenziano (1726) by Giovanni Domenico Piastrini, Giacomo Triga, and Pietro Andrea Barbieri.

During excavations performed in the 19th century, a series of Ancient Roman rooms were discovered under the nave of the church. Some of these rooms date back to the first and fourth centuries AD. In one room an elegant third-century AD fresco depicting Proserpine and other divinities among cherubs in a boat can be found, as can traces of another marine fresco and mosaics in the window arches.

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Clivo di Scauro, Rome, Italy
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Details

Founded: 398 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Martin Faughy (5 months ago)
A great experience and a good day out Best to arrive early to beat the crowds
Darryl Rich (6 months ago)
Great little church near Roman Forum (but a lot of steps to get to it). Free admission - worth seeing if in the area. 15-20min max.
Justin Lukasavige (7 months ago)
We did an underground tour with Through Eternity and this place was brought to life. From pagan time to early Christianity, walking on the old streets and viewing ancient homes this was all very interesting to learn. John and Paul were interesting to learn about.
R Jensen (9 months ago)
Superb Basilica. One of 4 largest in Rome. A must see, when in Rome. Easy access by Metro and tram.
Debra Hodson (12 months ago)
Beautiful. Well worth a visit. Should be more prominent on tourist routes.
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Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.