The Chandeliers’ Basilica in Rome

A stone’s throw from the Colosseum, in a corner of Rome known since the founding of the city. A Spasso con Sara to discover the basilica of Saints John and Paul on the Celian Hill.


The Romans call it the “basilica of chandeliers”. This is the name with which the basilica of Saints John and Paul is known in the square of the same name on the western slope of the Celian Hill, one of the hills more than Rome.


The facade of the basilica of Saints John and Paul (Credits:


The church, with its sumptuous Baroque interior, is so called because of the large number of Bohemian crystal chandeliers that illuminate it.


The chandeliers that decorate the basilica of Saints John and Paul (Credits:


It was built on pre-existing Roman buildings that stood behind the Clivus Scauri, the ancient road that led to the top of the Celian Hill. Most of them were shops but also refined dwellings belonging to important families of the city.


The Clivus of Scauro (Credits:


And the basilica was founded on one of these houses, to be exact on the one in which John and Paul, Roman officers converted to Christianity, were beheaded and buried in 362 AD, following the persecution of the Emperor Julian the Apostate.


Saints John and Paul (Credits:


The place immediately became a place of pilgrimage and, therefore, in 398 AD, Senator Bisante and his son Pammachius built the first nucleus of the future church (known by the name of titulus Byzantis or also Pammachi).

The church, however, was born only in the fifth century AD and, after being sacked and destroyed by the Barbarians and, after surviving even an earthquake, was completely rebuilt in the twelfth century.


The biggest surprises, however, occurred in 1887. On the occasion of new restoration work, the rector of the basilica, Father Germano di S. Stanislao dei Padri Passionisti (who still officiate the church) discovered the basement of the church.

Even the place where the Saints were executed was found. The small room, to be identified with the first “church” built by Bisante and Pammachio, had a small window that allowed the faithful to look out over a sort of well and contemplate the relics of the Saints.


Location of the Martyrion of Saints John and Paul under the basilica of the same name (Credits:


The room was richly frescoed with different scenes: the capture of the martyrs John and Paul and their execution (on the two side walls), one of the two martyrs, around which sprout roses and palms, with two faithful prostrate at his feet, and the torture of Saints Crispus, Crispius and Benda who were killed after the Saints John and Paul as they narrate their acts.


The niche from which the faithful could admire the relics of Saints John and Paul (Credits:


Worthy of note is also a luxurious nymphaeum decorated with a large fresco of marine setting. It represents Proserpina, Queen of the Underworld, surrounded by other gods and cherubs.


The fresco of the nymphaeum with the representation of Proserpine (Credits:


The set of decorations found in the underground rooms of the basilica of Saints John and Paul tell of a past in which Christianity and pagan cults still coexist, albeit between contrasts and difficulties.


Posted by Sara Pandozzi

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