On the top of the Caelian hill, overlooking an irregular square, made suggestive by the presence of historical evidence distributed over the span of two millennia, the basilica owes its name to two Roman soldiers victims of the persecution of Emperor Julian the Apostate who, according to a legend, had them buried in their own house.
The place thus became a pilgrimage destination and shortly afterwards the senator Byzantis and his son Pammachius built a “titulus” in honor of the martyred brothers, which was then transformed in the 5th century into a basilica. Sacked and destroyed several times, the church was rebuilt from its foundations in the 12th century, with the addition of a portico and an high bell tower, among the most beautiful in the city, built on the remains of the Temple of Emperor Claudius. In 1216 Cardinal Cencio Savelli (the future Pope Honorius III) modified the portico, creating the upper gallery and the Cosmatesque portal surmounted by an eagle with open wings and flanked by two lions.
The interior of the church, with three naves, was affected by the restorations carried out in the 18th century that made it lose all traces of the ancient appearance and contrasts with the Romanesque facade, restored between 1950 and 1952 by the will of Cardinal Spellman, archbishop of New York. The beautiful coffered ceiling was installed in the sixteenth century while the conch of the apse is occupied by a fresco of Christ the Redeemer in Glory with the Heavenly Host, by Pomarancio. About halfway down the nave, a plaque commemorates the place where the saints suffered martyrdom “in aedibus proprii”.
From Via del Clivo di Scauro, running down the left hand side of the church, it is possible to enter the so-called Case Romane del Celio, discovered in 1887 by Father Germano of San Stanislao, the rector of the Basilica at the time: twenty painted rooms, belonging to at least five buildings dated between the 1st and the 4th century, which constitute one of the best preserved complexes of residential buildings from the Roman age.
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