Santi Simone e Giuda is a deconsecrated former mediaeval parish church off Via dei Coronari, up a flight of stairs from the dead-end Via di San Simone in the rione Ponte.
The church was allegedly founded by Pope Paschal II (1099-1118), but is mentioned for the first time in a papal bull issued by Pope Alexander III in 1178 under the name of Santa Maria de Monticellis. In 1186 it was listed as one of the several dependent churches of San Lorenzo in Damaso, as Santa Maria in Montecello. This causes obvious confusion with Santa Maria in Monticelli in the rione Regola. Later names recorded were de Monte Iordano and de Monte Iohannis Ronzonis. The identification with Santa Maria in Corte (or in Curtibus) is erroneous.
The monte references in the name come from the fact that the church is built on a hillock which is thought to be a heap of ancient rubble. This is known as the Monte Giordano, and would be quite prominent if it wasn't for the buildings surrounding it.
The church became parochial in its own right in the 15th century, and as such used to have a small cemetery just to the west.For some reason it changed its name to that of the two apostles at the end of the 15th century. The reason might have been in order to enhance the pilgrimage landscape of the city; the church was near the major pilgrim throughfare of the Via dei Coronari, and this pair of rather obscure apostles did not have a church dedicated to them in Rome.
It was heavily restored in 1720, and most of the surviving fabric is of this date.
The parish apparently failed in the late 19th century, and the church was deconsecrated at the beginning of the 20th century. It has been used successively as a cinema, carpenter's workshop, restaurant and finally as a theatre, but the theatre (Teatro di Via dei Coronari) closed in 2010 and the premises are now empty.
The theatre's postal address was Via dei Coronari 66, but the old church is actually up a long flight of stairs from the end of the Via di San Simone. This last is a candidate for the shortest street (Via) in Rome. The stairs are a reminder that the church is perched on top of a mound.
The edifice is completely surrounded by other buildings, and has no street presence. There used to be another entrance leading into the left hand aisle, accessed via an alleyway and another flight of steps from the Via della Vetrina where it bends. This access seems to have been obliterated by the modern buildings now there.
This was not a very small church, despite appearances. The plan was quadrilateral, almost a rectangle with the far wall longer than the entrance wall and the left hand side wall at a slight angle to the major axis. The layout was basilical, with a nave and side aisles. The edifice was divided into five bays, with an arcade of three pillars on each side; the left hand aisle in the first bay was separated from the rest of that aisle by a blocking wall in order to create a self-contained chapel. The final bay had thick blocking walls creating a main apse, and two side apses at the ends of the aisles.
At the top of the staircase now, there is nothing to see except a door surmounted by a raised floating elliptical archivolt which is molded and has horizontal projections at its ends. Above this are domestic windows. Apparently, after the deconsecration this section of the façade was remodelled and the Baroque decoration destroyed. However, this was not a case of demolition because this part of the building used to be the priest's house which was built transversely over the first bay of the church in the 18th century restoration.
For proof of this, go to the east corner of the entrance of the street where you can just see the old campanile perched
on the roof of the priest's house. This has three open arched bell-housings, one above two and with a crumbled triangular pediment on top.
The interior still has two frescoes, one of the 15th century showing Our Lady Queen with Saints Simon and Jude, probably of the school of Antoniazzo Romano. The other is a fragmentary 14th century Crucifixion.