One of those evocative cul-de-sacs in Rome where history seems to be holding its breath, this church is strongly imbued with the sanctity of the Romanesque era. Marvelously redolent of the Middle Ages, this is one of the most unusual and unexpected corners of Rome, a quiet citadel that has resisted the tides of time and traffic. The church, which dates back to the 4th century, honors the Four Crowned Saints—the four brothers Severus, Severianus, Carpophorus, and Victorinus,
all Roman officials who were whipped to death for their faith by Emperor Diocletian (284–305). After its 9th century reconstruction, the church was twice as large as it is now. The abbey was partially destroyed during the Normans' sack of Rome in 1084, but reconstructed about 30 years later. This explains the inordinate size of the apse in relation to the small nave. Don't miss the cloister, with its well-tended gardens and 12th-century fountain. The entrance is the door in the left nave; ring the bell if it's not open.
There's another medieval gem hidden away off the courtyard at the church entrance: the Chapel of San Silvestro. (Enter the door marked "Monache Agostiniane" and ring the bell at the left for the nun; give her the appropriate donation through a grate, and she will press a button to open the chapel door automatically.) The chapel has remained, for the most part, as it was when consecrated in 1246. Some of the best-preserved medieval frescoes in Rome decorate the walls, telling the story of the Christian emperor Constantine's recovery from leprosy thanks to Pope Sylvester I. Note, too, the delightful Last Judgment fresco above the door, in which the angel on the left neatly rolls up sky and stars like a backdrop, signaling the end of the world.
Via Santi Quattro Coronati 20, Rome, 00184, Italy