|Santi Nereo e Achilleo|
|English name:||Sts Nereus and Achilleus|
|Dedication:||Sts Nereus, Achilleus|
|Type:||Titular church, Minor basilica|
|Built:||before 377, rebuilt in 814, 15th and 16th cent.|
|Address:||28 Via delle Terme di Caracalla|
|Homepage:||Sito sulla Chiesa dei Santi Nereo e Achilleo|
Santi Nereo e Achilleo is an ancient church dedicated to SS Nereus and Achilleus, 4th century soldier martyrs who are always venerated together. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.
The church was one of the tituli, the first parish churches of Rome, known as the Titulus Fasciolae, the Title of the Bandage. The name refers to the legend of Peter's flight from Rome to escape martyrdom; a bandage is said to have fallen from his leg at this site. It is uncertain when the church was built, but an inscription in the museum of San Paolo fuori le mura dated 377 says that the a deceased man named Cinnamius had been a lector in the Titulus
de fasciolae. The synod list from 499 also mentions this name, and lists it as being served by five priests.
It was dedicated to Sts Nereus and Achilleus some time before the Roman Synod of 595, when the list mentions it was the Titulus SS. Nerei e Achillei.
It was rebuilt under Pope Leo III in 814, when the relics of the two martyrs were brought here from the Catacomb of Domitilla. At that time, relics were moved from the catacombs to protect them from Saracen raiders, and since the church had already been dedicated to the two saints for more than 200 years it was only natural to translate their relics here.
In the Catalogue of Turin, c. 1320, the church is mentioned as a presbyterial title, with no priests serving the church. From other sources, it seems that the church was in a state of disrepair in the 14th century.
The present church is the result of a restoration by Cesare Cardinal Baronio - historian and titular priest of the church - in 1596-1597/8. The work was done carefully in order to preserve as much as possible of the ancient church and to restore ancient elements that had been lost. Some of the decorations that were added were taken from San Paolo fuori le mura.
The church has a basilical plan, with a central nave and two side aisles. It differs from other churches built on this plan in that it is quite small. The octagonal columns separating the aisles are most likely from the 15th century restoration.
Sts Nereus and Achilleus are buried beneath the high altar, together with St Flavia Domitilla. Their remains were brought here from the Catacombi di Domitilla, where they had been placed in the underground basilica. The floor in the choir was raised by Baronio in the late 16th century, to create a proper confessio beneath the high altar.
The baldachino is from the 16th century, and has columns of African marble.
Behind the high altar are two pagan sacrificial blocks taken from a nearby temple. They are decorated with winged spirits, which could of course easily be redefined as angels when they were moved here.
Frescoes along the sides of the nave, painted by Pomerancio in the 16th century, depict scenes from the lives of the three saints, and the martyrdoms of the Apostles. The painter was commissioned by Cardinal Baronius.
The medieval pulpit is placed on a huge, ancient porphyry urn taken from the Baths of Caracalla.
There are cosmatesque works in the sanctuary, including an episcopal throne behind the altar. The seat of this throne is ancient. In St Gregory the Great's twenty-eighth homily, he states that he preached before the shrine of Sts Nereus and Achilleus, and Cardinal Baronius assumed that this was the site. He had an inscription about this made on the back of the throne during the 16th century restoration, but when the underground basilica at the catacombs of Domitilla was discovered in 1874 it was realised that it St Gregory had preached there and not at the church the relics were translated to at a later time.
The apse mosaic is from the 9th century, and depicts the Transfiguration. On the sides are depictions of The Madonna and Child and The Annunciation.