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All images © by Roberto Piperno, owner of the domain. Write to romapip@quipo.it. Text edited by Rosamie Moore.
Page revised in July 2009.

SS. Giovanni e Paolo (Book 3) (Map B3) (Day 1) (View C9) (Rione Campitelli)

In this page:
 The plate by Giuseppe Vasi
 Today's view
 SS. Giovanni e Paolo
 The bell tower
 Clivo di Scauro
 Tempio di Claudio

The Plate (No. 53)

In Vasi's time this area was scarcely populated, so in the plate we see just one carriage and few passers-by.
The view is taken from the green dot in the small 1748 map here below. In the description below the plate Vasi made reference to: 1) Arches above Clivo di Scauro; 2) SS. Giovanni e Paolo; 3) Roman foundations of the bell tower; 4) Entrance to the adjoining monastery. The small map shows also 5) Tempio di Claudio.


The view in June 2009

The major change is due to the dome built in 1851 to cover an added chapel; the fašade 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

SS. Giovanni ed 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 fašade 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).

(left) Detail of the pavement; (right-above) relief above the main entrance; (right-below) lion representing the Church (actually an ancient statue badly modified in medieval times)

The Bell Tower

(left) The monastery and the bell tower; (right) detail of the bell tower

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.

(left-from above) Roman substructures supporting the bell tower; inscription celebrating a 1950 restoration by Cardinal Francis Spellman; detail of the dishes embellishing the bell tower; (centre) Roman arches under the monastery; (right) various reliefs found in the area

The bell tower is decorated with discs of porphyry and ceramic dishes. During the restoration of the bell tower the dishes were replaced with copies and the originals were moved to a small museum inside the ancient Roman houses. It is rather surprising to discover that most of the dishes came from Spain, at the time under the domination of the Moors, and therefore they were decorated with inscriptions dedicated to Allah. So the bell tower can be regarded as a very early (although unintentional) attempt to overcome religious differences.
The Roman arches under the monastery were not visible until the 1952 restoration paid for by Cardinal Francis Spellman, Archbishop of New York; if you did not know how to say New York in Latin, the plate celebrating the restoration could help you (Neoeboracensium=of New York, because Eboracum is the Latin name of York).

Clivo di Scauro

Clivo di Scauro towards S. Gregorio al Celio (left) and towards Villa Mattei (right)

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

(left) Eastern walls (in the background the Colosseum); (right) detail of the walls

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:

Chiesa de' SS. Giovanni e Paolo
Nella propria casa furono martirizati questi nobilissimi due santi fratelli sotto Giuliano Apostata, la quale poi fu ridotta in chiesa, e vi fu unito un monastero da s. Pammachio monaco, onde fu un seminario di santi. Niccol˛ V. la concedŔ a' Gesuati; Clemente X. a' Domenicani Ibernesi, e finalmente Clemente XI. la don˛ a' religiosi Missionarj, i quali vi hanno stabilito il loro noviziato. Il Cardinal Fabbrizio Paolucci, essendone titolare, la ristaur˛ col disegno del Cav. Antonio Canevari, lasciando, per quanto si potea, in vista le nobili colonne antiche, ed il pavimento tassellato, nel quale si vede un marmo cinto di ferri, su cui dicesi, che i Santi Titolari furono decapitati, i corpi de' quali, con quello di s. Saturnino martire, e dodici altri santi martiri, li conservano sotto l'altare maggiore. Nella parte sinistra di quella si vedono sotto il gran campanile alcune rovine, credute della Curia Ostilia, la seconda, e a destra alcuni archi, che diconsi dell'antica pescheria.

Next plate in Book 3: Tempio antico di Pallade
Next step in Day 1 itinerary: Villa Mattei sul Celio
Next step in your tour of Rione Campitelli: Chiesa di S. Maria in Domnica