Compassion Magazine

St JohnSaints John and Paul, Soldier Martyrs

Originally, the church and the house beneath it bore the senator's name. It was the church of Pammachius, whose house was a "titular" church -- which means his name hung outside the main door: "titulus Pammachii." It is listed among the twenty-five early house-churches: homes or apartments adapted for Christian use in the city.

His house-church had another distinction, besides. Bodies of Christian martyrs were buried and honored there, even before the upper basilica was built. Two soldier martyrs, John (right) and Paul, said to have been put to death by the Emperor Julian the Apostate in 362, are the most prominent of the group. By the time of the church synod in Rome in 595, the church of Pammachius was also known as the Church of Saints John and Paul.

Julian the ApostateScholars are still puzzled by the stories of the martyrs, John and Paul. Different versions have appeared, the earliest from the 6th century. According to the earliest "Passion" (an account of martyrdom), John and Paul were two Christian officers of the Emperor Constantine, who made them guardians of his daughter, Constantia. Thanks to his generosity, the two brothers bought a house on the Coelian Hill and retired there.

When Julian, the Apostate (right), became emperor, he called the two brothers back into imperial service as his aides. But they refused, because the emperor had betrayed the Christian faith into which he was baptized. Julian, incensed at their refusal, gave them ten days to reconsider; unless they complied with his request, he would charge them with impiety, which was punishable by death.

During the next ten days, the brothers prepared for their martyrdom by giving away their possessions to the poor.

Fearful that open persecution would antagonize the Christians, Julian chose to deal with the two soldiers privately. So he sent one of his captains, Terentianus, to their home to command obedience from them and to sacrifice to the gods. When they remained firm, they were beheaded and secretly buried in their home. To cover up their death, officials started the rumor that they were sent into exile. Three other Christians, the priest Crispus, the cleric Crispinianus and the woman Benedicta were martyred along with the brothers.

St PaulShortly afterwards, the truth came out, and John and Paul (right), as well as the others, were honored at a shrine built over their graves in the apartments along the Clivus Scauri, which may have been their home. Later, a stairway connected the shrine to the church built above.

Honoring the Soldier Saints

The cult of the two soldier saints grew as miracles were reported through their intercession. By the 6th century, their names were listed in the ancient Roman Canon; their feast was celebrated in Rome, Milan and Ravenna on June 23rd, which may be the day of their martyrdom. The two martyred soldiers would have been favorites of the soldiers stationed on the Coelian Hill, who passed their shrine on the Clivus Scauri regularly. They also reminded Christians -- who were becoming increasingly more comfortable in Roman society -- that those who follow Jesus must be ready to bear their cross.



The Coelian Hill Early Coelian Christians Faith for a New Age
Saints John and Paul, Soldier Martyrs
A Shrine Church of Rome A Visual Guide to the Baslica
Passionists at Coelian HillRecent Archeological Investigations Act with Compassion
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