This attraction in Rome for me is a haven when you need to get away from the “busy-ness” of the city.
While the book, “The Secrets of Rome” describes Santi Quattro Coronati as ” a gigantic fortress appears, powerful…” and the walk up from the Colosseum do give you the sense of this, it’s a different world once you are inside.
Standing at the entrance facade of this attraction in Rome, its simple structure wouldn’t get the attention of passers-by who would easily dismiss it. Evidence of this was there was only a handful of visitors when I was here one morning.
With every attraction in Rome, you can always find a legend behind it. In the case of Santi Quattro Coronati, which means “Four Crowned Saints”, they refer to not one but two groups of martrys.
The first group were five and not four stonemasons who worked for Emperor Diocletian that were condemned to death when they refused to carve the statue of the god Asclepius. The other group were soldiers who were martyred for refusing to sacrifice to the same pagan god Asclepius.
To add to this confusion, there was also the discussion that they could also be martrys from Albano. To put an end to this matter once and for all, Pope Leo IV had the relics of the stonemasons, soldiers and martyrs of Albano all placed in the crypt of the basilica.
The Basilica was originally built in the 4th century and then enlarged and renovated by Pope Leo IV in the 9th century. Unfortunately, when the Normans sacked the city in 11th century, parts of it was set on fire which caused the collapse of the nave and part of the apse.
Although Pope Pascal II had originally intended to restore the basilica to its original dimensions in the 12th century, he reluctantly decided to reduce the size probably due to economic factors as well as the situation at that time.
This can be seen when entering the basilica as it seems to be out of proportions. The original apse was kept and clearly make to big for this church with one nave and two aisles.
Attraction in Rome: Santi Quattro Coronati – Hidden Treasures
Most visitors I saw just roamed around the basilica admiring the monuments and frescoes. However, the hidden treasure here is the Cosmati cloister with the entrance located on the left aisle of the basilica.
According to the instructions given on the signs, ring the bell and a caretaker will open the door to let you in. While there is no fee to enter, there is a donation box as you walk in.
It would be a nice gesture to leave a couple of euros and with the serenity it provides, it’s worth much more. This place feels like a safe haven – quiet, serene, and a place to escape from the craziness! The video may give you a feel of this.
Chapel of St. Sylvester
When you walk into Santi Quattro Coronati, before you get to the basilica, the entrance of the Chapel of St. Sylvester is located on your right. As you go through the entrance, you will get to the Calendar room and see that there is a grate on the left wall.
From my experience, I rang the bell and no one came to the grate. I rang it the second time and again no nun appeared. I was questioning if this was the right bell or if I was too late as it was already 11.45am and they close at 2pm.
Another couple came by, rang the bell and no luck. Then finally, from the door across the grate, a few people stepped out and I figured that was the entrance to the Chapel and not the door next to the bell.
We rang the bell again and finally a nun showed up and asked for the fee of €1 per person. She didn’t speak English and asked me to translate her request to the couple.
Everyone paid the fee and she buzzed open the door where others had previously stepped out. Honestly, you don’t have to speak Italian, just hand the euro and you will be fine.
Note: I think the nun didn’t come to the grate until other guests were out of the Chapel.
Finally, we entered this stunning chapel covered with well-preserved frescoes depicting the life of Pope Sylvester. The narration starts at the back of the entrance facade to the left where the Emperor Constantine was struck by leprosy and reassuring the women with their children.
Emperor Constantine was told by priests of the Temple of Jupiter that he would be cured by taking a bath in children’s blood.
The second fresco illustrates the dream that Emperor Constantine had where he was visited by the apostles Paul and Peter who had asked him to seek out Pope Sylvester.
As for the rest of the frescoes and the chapel, you will have to see it for yourself. For €1 you get to see 13th century frescoes and have to admit that this is money well spent!
I would highly advise you to get here at least an hour before closing times so you have ample time to fully explore this attraction . (Giorni feriali = weekdays, Giorni festivi = weekends/holidays)
How To Get There
Coming from the Colosseum, it is an uphill walk while from San Giovanni in Laterano, the walk is basically flat. There are signs near Basilica San Clemente directing you to Santi Quattro Coronati.
Address: Via Santi Quattro Coronati 20, Rome 00184
If you have time or if this is your second-visit to Rome, add this less-known attraction in Rome to your itinerary!Photos: All photos on this post belong to BrowsingRome.com