Faith for a New Age
Once the Emperor Constantine (at right) embraced it, Christianity's role in Roman society grew. Previously, Christians had been cautious because of persecution; now they advanced their faith boldly. Now, splendid churches, displacing their modest community centers or renovated houses, rivaled Rome's great temples and shrines. To win over the powerful Roman majority, they promoted the Christian scriptures, freshly translated by St. Jerome, along with his learned commentaries. The new faith, St. Augustine argued in his City of God, far from causing the empire to fall (as its enemies claimed), was God's providential gift to save it.
The church of Saints John and Paul was a sign of this new Christian assertiveness. It was built in the "show" area of the imperial city, close to the Roman forum. Until then, new Christian building was confined to the city's edge (the Lateran Basilica is an example) or to the shrines of martyrs outside the city, in order not to offend the Roman majority, many of whom resented the new faith. Saints John and Paul, however, was built near the heart of the city, next to the Roman temple of Claudius. It was a visual statement that Christianity had arrived.
St. Pammachius (340-410), Senator and Builder of the Church
Fittingly, Pammachius, a respected senator and one-time leader of the senate, was the builder of the Church of Saints John and Paul. He came from a patrician family linked to other noble families. His wife was Paolina, daughter of the influential noblewoman St.Paula, who accompanied St. Jerome to the Holy Land.
They had no children, and when Paolina died in 360 Pammachius dedicated himself to the spiritual life, promoting scripture study and caring generously for the poor. St. Jerome (illustrated at right), his long-time friend and regular correspondent, admired the Roman nobleman's deep faith and keen mind. Another friend, St. Paulinus of Nola, called Pammachius the "most generous patron the church could have."
Early in the 5th century, the Roman senator built a Christian basilica on the hill slope in the shadow of an impressive temple dedicated to the Emperor Claudius. He used three existing buildings for its foundation, two of them 3rd century apartment houses facing the Clivus Scauri.
for a New Age