"Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (Saint Lawrence outside the Walls)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Tuesday 24th May 2011
This basilica is one of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome and of the numerous churches dedicated to the deacon Laurence of Spanish origin. In the middle of the 3rd century, in epoch of intensive persecutions of Christians, was a depositary of the property of the Church, when Sixtus II and his collaborator were condemned to death, and distributed all this to the poor people. He died martyr and obtained great admire and devotion after his death. This explains the number of the churches dedicated to him and importance of his cult close to the place of his sepulchre, happened in Agro Verano, in the cemetery of matron Cyriaca.
The basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (Saint Lawrence outside the Walls) as it is today is the combination of two distinct churches, one built in the sixth century AD and the other at the beginning of the thirteenth century AD around the tomb of Lorenzo, deacon of Spanish origin martyred under emperor Valerian and buried in the cemetery of Ciriaca along the Via Tiburtina.
Basilica consists of two churches places end to end. In the 3rd century Constantine built a crypt with the relics of St Laurence, which later grew into a covered cemetery basilica of San Lorenzo which was 100m long and 36m wide; Pelagius II built a new church in 579. In 1216 Honorius III demolished the apse of the 6th century church and built onto it another church, with a different orientation. The churches were skillfully restored in 1864-1870 by V.Vespignani.
San Lorenzo was the only church in Rome to suffer serious damage during the WWII, when it was nearly destroyed in an American air raid on July 19, 1943: it took five years to rebuild the church (architect Alberto Terenzio) and in 1948 it was reopened. The church also keeps the relics of Santo Stefano (protomartyr) and for this reason it is from time immemorial one of the most worshipped in Rome, included within the restricted number of the five most ancient and important patriarchal basilicas.
The simple Romanesque campanile dates from the 12th century and has five levels of little arches divided from pilasters. The reconstructed 13th century narthex of six antique Ionic columns has a carved cornice and a mosaic frieze. Inside of the portico are two unusual tombs, a tablet (1948) commemorating repairs ordered by Pius XII after war damage, and a monument to Alcide De Gasperi', Italian statesman, by G.Manzu'; the frescoes of the end of the 13th century depict the lives of Saints Laurence and Stephen. The facade with three big windows was completely reconstructed after the damage of 1943, and lost the 19th century decorations.
The basilican 13th century interior has a chancel and no transept. Twenty two Ionic columns of granite (probably part of the comes from the previous basilica of Constantine) support an architrave, and the floor is paved with a 13th century Cosmatesque mosaic. The greatest part of the paintings by C.Fracassini executed in the middle of the 19th century on the walls of the nave were lost. Near the entrance is the tomb of Cardinal Fieschi, a large Roman sarcophagus converted to its present use in 1256, it was rebuilt from the original fragments after the bombardment.
In the nave are two magnificent ambones of the 14th century and a Paschal Candlestick decorated with mosaics.
The presbytery is the point of a major artistic interest of the church. The baldacchino in the choir composed of two levels of the porphyry columns; it is signed by Giovanni, Pietro, Angelo and Sasso, sons of the mastermason Paolo (1148, restored in the 19th century). The throne of bishop (1254) is richly decorated with little mosaic columns, pieces of porphyry and serpentine. Inside the triumphal arch is a 6th century mosaic of Christ with saints, and Pelagius offering the church, reset during the Byzantine revival. The raised chancel incorporates the 6th century church, which is on a slightly different axis.
The Corinthian columns support and entablature of antique fragments and, above, an arcaded gallery. In the end of the left aisle there is a stairs with the two burial monuments on both side by P.da Cortona and F.Duquesnoy, which leads to the underground chapel of St Cyriaca (the access to the Catacombs of St Cyriaca where the body of St Laurence is said to have been placed after his death in 258).
The level of the earliest basilica has some of the original pillars. The whole ancient portico was transformed in the mausoleum of Pius IX, built with the neo-Byzantine decorations by Cattaneo in 1881 and Ludovico Seitz.
The original rectangular cloister dates from 1187-1191 and on its walls is an important collection of ancient epigraphs and marble pieces.
In the center of the square in front of the basilica is a columns erected in 1865, substituting the smaller one erected by Clement XI, as a monument commemorating conclusion of the great works of restoration of basilica and of arrangement of this square. On the top of the column is a bronze statue of Laurence, by Stefano Galletti. Together with the statue the column is 24m high and is the second in Rome by height after Colonna dell'Immacolata.
The convent of the basilica is occupied by Capuchins starting from the middle of the past century. In more recent history, the Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura was home to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1374 to 1847. In 1943, the church was bombed during World War II. Restoration lasted until 1948, allowing some 19th century accretions to be removed; however, the frescoes on the facade were lost.
Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (Saint Lawrence outside the Walls)/ San Lorenzo al Verano
Piazzale Del Verano, 3
Quartiere San Lorenzo
00185, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Quartiere Tiburtino (Roma est)
[Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (al Verano)/ Saint Lawrence outside the Walls] is Shown By "Map F Zone" As "41"
Bus: 11, 71, 109, 111, 309, 310, 311, 411, 415, 492.
Tram: 19 - 3
Metro: Metro B - Policlinico
Hours: In winter: Every day 7.30am-12.30pm 3.30pm-7.00pm. In summer: Every day 7.30am-12.30pm and 4.00pm-8.00pm. Parish office: Every day 9.00am-12.00am. Solemn Vespers: Every day 6.30pm.
Masses: In winter - weekdays: 8.00am and 6.00pm, holidays: 8.30am-10.00am-11.00am-12.00pm-6.00pm. In summer - weekdays: 8.00am and 7.00pm, holidays: 8.30am-10.00am-11.00am-7.00pm.
Telephone: 0039 06 491511
Fax: 0039 06 4466184