For many centuries, the Coelius Maior (Celio Maggiore) remained a hill almost completely uninhabited. Flocks grazed here among the orchards and vineyards.
On this ancient hill to the left of the ancient Clivo di Scauro, the basilica was built above the house of the brothers John and Paul, very influential court officers, who were martyred for the Christian faith on 26 June 362, at the time of Julian the Apostate (+ 363).
This area is unique in the history of Roman archaeology. There are traces of primitive Christian worship together with other obvious vestiges of prior art.
After the murder of the brothers, other Christian martyrs there were buried here– Crispo, Crispiniano and Benedetta.
The veneration of the holy martyrs of the celimontana came to fruition at the end of the 4th century in the construction of a building ad corpora by the Senator Bizanzio.
Then the son of Senator Pammachius (+ 410c.), a friend of St. Jerome, transformed the building into the form of a Basilica magna et valde formosa (large and lovely) as stated in the Itinerary of Salisbury.
It was plundered and ruined at the time of the Visigoths in 410, and in the VI and VII centuries it was very frequented by many pious pilgrims. It was also furnished with numerous adornments. The names of the military martyrs were placed in the Roman Canon of the Mass.
In Rome there were two other churches named after the martyrs of the Celimontana. One of these was on the Janiculum Hill. The other, with its annexed monastery was built by St. Leo the Great ca. 440, in the area currently occupied by the transept of Saints Martinian and Processo in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Two priests, Proclinus and Ursus, had the title of the Basilica during the pontificate of Pope Innocent I (+ 417).
Four priests, two of the title of Bizanzio and two of the title of Pammachius, were present at the Roman Synod of 499.
According to the catalogue of Peter Mallio, drawn up under the pontificate of Pope Alexander III (+ 1181), the title, at that time, was connected to the basilica di Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls and its priests would take turns celebrating Mass here. The Church was restored several times.
Pope Symmachus in the 5th century and then Leo III occupied it. The cult of the celimontana martyrs spread throughout the whole of the Church. A Lector, a certain Massimino, who died in 567 at the age of 20, ministered in this basilica. For centuries liturgical services were provided by a small community of canons (or monks) until the year 1000.