A Shrine Church of Rome (6th Century - 20th Century)
Churches share the fate of the cities in which they are built. The church of Saints John and Paul shared in Rome's decline following the invasion of the Visigoths in 410. Other barbarian invaders swept through the empire after them, and Rome's population dwindled from about 800,000 in 400 to perhaps 100,000 by 500. Most of the wealthy families from the Coelian fled to the safety of Constantinople or Ravenn. The remaining population either moved from the city or relocated in its westward section, leaving the hill largely abandoned and depopulated. It remained that way until the end of the 19th century. (right, Vasi etching from 1753)
After a brief shining period as a center for early Coelian Christians, the Church of Saints John and Paul became the charge of the papal court located at the Lateran area nearby, and depended upon the fluctuating resources of the popes. An annotation from the Liber Pontificalis in the 8th century says that Pope Hadrian I (772-795) "began to renovate the titulus Pammachii, of Saints John and Paul, which had become run down over the years." Through the dark ages, to medieval times, until today, the church was kept standing by popes, cardinal protectors, religious communities and benefactors who mended, altered or restored its fabric.
By the 6th century, Saints John and Paul was no longer a thriving parish church, but an isolated martyrs' shrine in an abandoned area of the city. Yet, as Rome under the popes of the 7th century became a magnet for pilgrims flocking to the city's shrines (especially the shrines of St. Peter and St. Paul), the church of the soldier martyrs on the Coelian Hill also attracted visitors.
From the 11th to the 13th centuries, cardinal protectors provided the popular church with a beautiful bell tower, solid walls and enlarged monastic buildings. Pilgrim guidebooks of the time give the church a place of honor because, uniquely, it contained martyrs' tombs within the city walls. The 12th century historian and guide, William of Malmesbury, writes: "Inside the city, on the Coelian hill, John and Paul, martyrs, lay in their own house, which was made into a church after their death."
for a New Age