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Santi Quattro Coronati

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Santi Quattro Coronati
SS quattro coronati exterior
English name: The Four Holy Crowned Ones
Denomination: Roman Catholic
Type: Titular church, Minor basilica
Clergy: Augustinians
Titular church Cardinal Mahony
Built: 4th century, rebuilt in 9th and 12th century
Consecrated: 1116
Artists: G. di San Giovanni
Contact data
Address: 20 Piazza dei Santi Quattro Coronati
00184 Roma
Phone: 06 70 47 54 27
Fax: 06 77 27 14 55
41° 53.303' N 12° 29.908' E

Santi Quattro Coronati is dedicated to a group of 4th century Roman martyrs. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons.[1]


According to tradition, the first church was built in the 4th century by Pope St Miltiades (311-314). It has been identified with one of the first parish churches in Rome, the titulus Aemilianae, named after the foundress. Some researchers place the foundation in the 5th century. It was restored by Pope Honorius I (625-638) and Pope Hadrian I (772-795). Pope St Leo IV (847-855) had it rebuilt as a basilica.

The church was destroyed in the Norman sack of Rome in 1084, and it found its present form - somewhat smaller than the original church - under Pope Paschal II (1099-1118). The new church was consecrated on 20 January 1116.

From the 12th to the 16th century, the church belonged to the Benedictines. A monastery and cloister were added in the 12th and 13th centuries.

In 1246, it was transformed by Pope Innocent IV so that it could function as a fortress, and was used by popes who felt unsafe in the Lateran because of the ongoing conflict with the Hohenstaufen emperors.

In 1521 it was passed on to the Camaldolese, and in 1561 it was given to the Augustinians, who still serve it.

This was the first church in Rome to have a non-Italian titular; Dietrich of Trier was appointed titular in 975 by Pope Benedict VII. In 1914, Giacomo della Chiesa was the titular of this church. In the same year, he was elected pope and took the name Benedict XV. The current titular of the church is H.E. Roger Michael Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles.


Quattro Coronati
SS quattro coronati cloister
SS quattro coronati cloister view

As a result of the 1246 rebuilding, the church looks almost like a fortress, towering above the street. It's approached through two courtyards. You also pass through the Romanesque campanile.

The cloisters are reached from the left nave. They were constructed in the early 12th century by the Cosmati in the Romanesque style. You may need to ask a sister or the sacristan to unlock the door.

From the cloisters you reach the Chapel of St Barbara. It belonged to the first church here, and the sculptured corbels are from the 4th or 5th century. Traces of frescoes from the 9th and 13th centuries survive in the chapel. The chapel belongs to the Corporation of Stonecutters.

Nuns in the adjacent convent still dispense charity to the poor from their doorstep, a tradition that goes back several centuries.


SS quattro coronati interior
SS quattro coronati interior apside

Columns imbedded in the wall are from the 9th century church, where the walls opened into side aisles. With the rebuilding of the 12th century, the church got three naves instead of just one.

On the right side is the matronea, a gallery for women in Eastern style.

There's a cosmatesque floor and a coffered ceiling. The apse has frescoes from the early 17th century by Giovanni di San Giovanni. The motif is the glory of the saints.

The martyrs' relics were moved here during the 9th century rebuilding, and are preserved in ancient sarcophagi in the crypt. You may ask a sister to unlock the door if you wish to see them, but it might not be the most fascinating way to spend your (or her) time.

At an altar on the left-hand side, the skull of St Sebastian is venerated.

On your way out, you'll see a door on the left side. You can ring the bell and ask the sister for the key to the Capella de San Silvestro, or Oratory of St Sylvester. The key will be passed through the turn, a grille in the door. The door to which it belongs is on the left side of the outer courtyard. The chapel has paintings from 1246 of the life of Pope St Sylvester, pope during the reign of Constantine in the early 4th century. The Legend of Constantine depicts the untrue tradition that Constantine was baptised by Pope Sylvester. The cycle states the pontiff's supreme power over imperial power, embodied by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The chapel was reserved for private masses of the Holy Father and members of the Curia.

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