12 MaySouth transept Spire-G96
Symbol: palm branch

Sant’Achilleo is often associated with St. Nereus. Both were Roman martyrs who lived in the 3rd century. They were buried along two of the most famous roads, via Ardeatina and via Aurelia. Though both saints are celebrated on 12 May, they have always been separately venerated and their liturgical memories are celebrated with dedicated formularies according to the ancient Roman tradition. The oldest document on saints Nereus and Achilleo is the epigraph written in their honour by Pope St. Damasus in the 4th century. Its contents were handed down by the evidence of many pilgrims before its destruction. In the 19th century Archaeologist Giovanni Battista De Rossi successfully pieced the fragments together, and told us that Nereus and Achilleo were soldiers enrolled in the army. They obeyed the orders of a tyrant, and suddenly converted to Christianity and escaped from the army camp. Hence it seems ascertained that they were Praetorians who suddenly decided to convert to Christianity, paying for their faith with their blood. In 1874, always archaeologist De Rossi discovered their empty tombs and a contemporary sculpture in an underground Roman church built in 390 AD. Their sepulchre consisted of a family tomb situated in the site that was later called the Domitilla cemetery.There isn’t much information about the statue that stands on Spire G96 today. We know it is a reproduction of 1966, but we neither know the name of the sculptor nor is there any information about the original statue. We only know that the statue crowned the spire until 1939. It might have been struck during World War 2 bombings and, therefore, an external sculptor or marble worker of Veneranda Fabbrica was assigned the task of producing a copy. Sant’Achilleo, as we see him today, is portrayed in a solemn attitude with right arm raised as if he were holding an invisible weapon, and left arm on the chest, as if he were taking an oath.