According to tradition, two Roman soldiers, John and Paul (not to be confused with the Apostles), lived in these houses before they were beheaded by the emperor Julian. There's no direct evidence for this, although research has revealed that the houses were used for Christian worship. There are more than 20 rooms, many of them richly decorated.

Entry to the houses, which now lie beneath the Basilica dei SS Giovanni e Paolo al Celio, is on the Clivo di Scauro.