Like many of Rome’s earliest Christian churches, the Santi Cosma e Damiano Church (or Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano) was once a pagan temple and incorporates elements of its original Roman architecture. After becoming a church in 527, however, the interior was richly decorated with mosaics considered to be masterpieces of sixth and seventh-century art.
This circular church and adjacent monastery are located at the original entrance of the Roman Forum, in what was once the Foro di Vespasiano, and are home to some of Italy's most important early Christian mosaics. Many private tours of the Roman Forum include a stop in the basilica, and devotees of Saint Damian can also join a day excursion from Rome to Assisi and Orvieto to visit the Chiesa di San Damiano as part of a tour of Assisi with a private guide.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Though the church is part of the Forum complex, the entrance is through the monastery outside the Forum, so you do not need tickets to enter.
- Visitors must wear clothing that covers shoulders and knees to enter the church.
- The church and cloister are accessible to wheelchairs; the crypt beneath the church is not.
- Photography (without flash) is allowed inside the church.
How to Get There
The basilica is part of the Roman Forum (Foro Romano) complex, located on Via dei Fori Imperiali near the Colosseum. Take metro line B to the Colosseo stop.
When to Get There
The Roman Forum is usually busy, but this separate area is less visited, meaning you don’t have to expect crowds throughout the day. September 26 is the saint's day dedicated to the church’s saints, Cosmas and Damiano. This makes for a particularly beautiful day to visit the church during the celebratory mass.
Santi Cosma e Damiano History
The basilica is dedicated to the saints Cosmas and Damian, two Syrian brothers who were physicians and, after martyrdom, became the patron saints of doctors and veterinarians. The church was first a fourth-century temple dedicated to Romolo (or Romulus, the deified son of Emperor Maxentius) before becoming the Church of the Saints Cosmas and Damian in 527.