| Basilica of Saints Cosmas
No other Basilica in Rome can claim a more
and historic setting than Saints Cosmas and Damian.
Approaching it is a walk through history. Traveling
the Via dei Fori Imperiali toward the Coliseum, the Roman or tourist admires an
archeological panorama of stupendous beauty. Unique in the world for its many and ancient
monuments, this broad avenue calls to mind the history, the grandeur and the splendor that
(Make selections on left for each
AND THE BASILICA
pictures and text in part are reproduced with permission from the book
" The Basilica of Santi Cosma e Damiano "
and is the property of the Franciscan Friars, General Curia Rome, Italy.
Testo e impianto grafico di Lino Temperini, TOR
and the English translation by Seraphin
The Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian is located in the very
heart of ancient and modern Rome. It forms part of an imposing archeological complex in
the midst of an extensive natural park which recalls so many historical events and
The building was originally a Roman structure - it's purpose
its not certain, but it belonged to Vespasian's Forum of Peace, and may have been one of
the libraries of that forum.
It was rebuilt and consecrated as a church in the 6th
century, probably by Pope St Felix IV in 527.
The circular structure known as the Temple of Romulus in the
Forum Romanum is incorporated in the church.
front of the present entrance on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, rose the Forum of Vespasian
(71-75 AD) and the Temple of Peace; to the right was the Velian hill, then the Domus
Aurea or Golden House of Nero (64 AD), and the Coliseum. To the left, was the Forum of
Nerva or Transitorio (96-98 AD), the Forum of Augustus with the Temple of Mars (31-2
BC), the Forum of Trajan (98-117 AD) with its famous Column, the Ulpian Basilica and the
Trajan Markets (107-113 AD).
the Basilica, whose original entrance opened out onto the Via Sacra, one can admire
the Roman Forum with its many monuments and the Palatine Hill with the palaces of' the
Caesars, the Arch of Titus (81 AD), the Arch of Constantine (315 AD), the ColiseumI (
72-80 AD), the Temple of Venus and Rome (46 AD, renovated in 121-136), the Basilica
of Maxentius (306-312 AD), the Temple of the Dioscuri (484 BC), the House of the Vestal
Virgins reconstructed in 64 AD), the Julian Basilica and the Forum of Caesar (51-44 BC),
the Rostrum (44 BC), the Temple of Saturn (497 BC) and the Campidoglio, the Arch of
Septimus Severus (203 AD), the Curia of the Senate (often rebuilt and later even
transformed into the Church of St. Adrian), the Mamertime Prison (from the
Republican period), the Emilian Basilica (I 79 BC), the Temple of Antonio and Faustina
(161 AD), and the Via Sacra itself.
fascinating setting recalls events and characters of the last 2500 years, not only those
concerning Rome, but of the entire Roman Empire, that is, the whole ancient world.
Click on thumbnails
to enlarge pictures
|ENTRANCE TO THE
BASILICA AND CONVENT
The present entrance to the Basilica and the Convent of Sts. Cosmas and Damian is through
a wide arched doorway of travertine marble with an open campanile high above on the roof.
Originally, the external wall was clad with about 150 marble slabs
incised with a map of Rome at the time of the Severi (3rd century AD) known as the Forma
When entering the church, you pass through the 17th
century cloister of the adjoining convent. The frescoes are by Francesco Allegrini.
On the left is an ancient Severian
brick wall pitted with holes where the marble facing had been attached and the signs of
many repairs are evident. In the years 205-208, Septimus Severus had the Forma Urbis, or
map of Rome attached to this wall.
After passing through the marble
entrance, there is a Roman wall of great stone blocks wrapped with lead bands, frames and
windows. On this side, in fact, seven meters lower down was the entrance into the
Bibliotheca Pacis, introduced by a formal arcade.
THE ANCIENT BRONZE
DOOR OF THE BASILICA
ancient bronze door of the Basilica is flanked by two columns of porphyry and presents a
finely carved doorway. It has the original lock with its bronze key which still functions.
The bronze door , along with
its framework, had been removed from a building dating from the time of Septimus Severus,
demolished by the Emperor Carino in 283 AD, and later transferred here.
|Based on the images
found on various coins, we know that originally the doorway was surmounted by a bell.
During the Barberini
reconstruction, the doorway and surrounding structure were raised and centered in the
basilica. In the years 1879-1880, the door with its decorations and doorway was again
reset at its original level under the direction of R. Lanciani.
illustration one can note (from left to right): The Curia of the Senate, The Temple of
Saturn, The Temple of Antonio and Faustina, the Temple "of Romulus" and the
Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian. The Basilica of Maxentius, the Basilica of St. Francis
of Rome and the Coliseum.
THE FRIARS OF THE THIRD ORDER REGULAR OF ST. FRANCIS
new Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian was entrusted to a College of Canons.
by the start of the 1500s, the officiating Canons were reduced to only six in number and
over the years the inconveniences of the place had increased (rundown dwelling space,
little income, humidity, malaria, etc.).
ensure a dignified service worthy of a Basilica-Shrine, the Franciscan Friars TOR were
appointed to take charge in 1503. In 1512, this appointment was made permanent by a decree
of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, later Pope Paul III.
TOR Friars will be the protagonists of extraordinary works: besides their pastoral and
liturgical ministry to the faithful, they would carry out the raising of the Basilica and
the construction of an adjacent convent which was functional and provided ample space.
the years 1592-1605, while the work on the Felician basilica continued and the side
chapels were constructed at the direction of Clement VIII, Fr. Bernardine Sabbia
constructed a building above the sacristy and a refectory to the right of the present
entrance. (This was incorporated into the wing built by Fr. Giovanni Parisi in 1946.)
plans for a new convent, designed by Orazio Torriani, bears the date of May 10, 1626. The
work was carried out in the years 1626-1632 under the direction of Luici Arrigucci at the
same time as the raising of the Basilica (1626-1638).
religious community was disbanded during the civil suppression by a decree of December 16,
1873. However, a few friars managed to stay on to provide pastoral care at the basilica
until the storm had passed. For centuries, the Basilica and Convent has been the locale
for the General Curia of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis. Presently, there are a
number of TOR Friars from various nations in residence here, dedicated to the
administration of the Order, to pastoral activity and to studies.