Santi Quattro Coronati
Approaching the medieval gateway of this ancient church, dedicated to the Four Crowned Saints, one immediately gathers that this is a unique place. Indeed it is, for though it stands only a few blocks from some of the busiest areas of the city, this oft-forgotten church holds centuries of tradition within its scarred walls.
The title of this church is actually in reference to two groups of martyrs from the Roman persecutions. The first group were four soldiers, Severus, Victorinus, Carpophorus, and Severinus, who refused to take part in pagan worship, and were killed for this in the persecutions of Diocletian. The name of this church may be derived from a military decoration of a small crown, which the four soldier saints may have earned during their service. The second group were a group of five stonemasons, Claudius, Nicostratus, Sempronianus, Castor, and Simplicius, who were put to death for their refusal to carve a statue of Asclepius which would be used for pagan worship.
The oldest parts of this current building date from an apsed hall, built in the fourth century. At some unknown point, but before 595, this became the Titulus Aemelianae. Around the year 630, Pope Honorius I dedicated the first purpose-built church on this site, which was restored in the late eighth century by Pope Hadrian I. In the mid-ninth century, Pope Leo IV undertook a more complete rebuilding and placed the relics of many martyrs in a crypt underneath the altar, including those of the four soldiers and the five stonemasons. The relics of the latter were brought here possibly because of the similarity of their story to that of the soldiers. The bell tower is also thought to date from this era.
Along with many other buildings in this neighborhood, this church suffered a near complete destruction in the Norman attack of 1084, at which time it seems that another rebuilding was taking place. Pope Paschal II rebuilt the church, retaining the previous apse but making the new nave markedly smaller, consecrating it in 1116. The chapel of St. Sylvester was completed in 1246; the frescoes in this are one of the gems of this complex. In 1560, Augustinian nuns took up residence here, where they remain until today, having been joined by the Little Sisters of the Lamb more recently. Much of the nave underwent a redecoration in the 1620s; the apse fresco and sanctuary arrangement date from this time as well. Other than some minor additions and changes, the building has seen few further changes until the present time.