Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the WallsFrom the Courtyard of the Monastery to the cosmati-style mosaics, we are going to discover one of the Seven Churches of Rome: history, description and opening times
The Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, located just before the Monumental Cemetery Verano, is part of the Seven Churches of Rome, and up to mid 19th century it was a papal basilica.
Inside is kept the Tomb of Saint Lawrence, martyred in 258 AD. under the empire of Valeriano, and the relics of Saint Stephen, together with other famous personalities like Italian Prime Minister Alcide De Gasperi and well five Popes: Saint Zosimo, Saint Sixtus III, Sant Hilarius, Damasus II and Pope Pius IX.
The origin of this church dates back to the year 330 when emperor Constantine ordered to build a big basilica with a cemetery called Basilica Maior close to the tomb of Saint Lawrence, to which was also added a small oratory. By late 6th century Pope Pelagius II built another church, called Basilica Minor that, besides substituting the oratory, included also the tomb of the Saint.
It was not until the 13th entury when Pope Honorius III, when the basilica started being as it looks today, with the fusion of the two churches. The Basilica of Saint Lawrence, underwent several restoration works over the enturies. The most drastic one was made by Virgilio Vespignani between 1885 and 1864.
The Basilica was seriously damaged in 1943 by World War II bombings, so it was restored between 1943 and 1948 by Alberto Terenzio giving it its typical Medieval look.
BASILICA OF SAINT LAWRENCE OUTSIDE THE WALLS - OUTSIDE AND ENTRANCE PORTICO
The church is preceded by a wide square, comissioned by Pope Pius IX, where there is a column surmounted by the statue of Saint Lawrence, work by Stefano Galletti (1865). The monastery and the wonderful 13th-century Romanesque bell tower are, on the other hand, next to the church.
The entrance portico is supported by six decorated columns surmounted by Medieval Ionic style capitals. It houses, besides sarcophagi and marble slabs, also important frescoes on the walls depicting the lives of Saint Lawrece and Saint Stephen.
On the sides of the entrance gate, two marble lions welcome you into the basilica. On the left wall is the funeral monument to Alcide De Gasperi, by Giacomo Manzù.
The Basilica of Saint Lawrence outide the Walls is not one of the most frequented tourist attractions of the Capital, but it certainly deserves a visit. Rich in history and art, it is a really unique place that will instill a sense of peace and immanence. Despite the reconstruction after World War II bombings, the church mantains its original form, without Baroque changes or 19th-century alterations, keeping intact the fascination and harmony of its structure.
BASILICA OF SAINT LAWRENCE OUTSIDE THE WALLS - INTERIOR
As soon as you cross the threshold of the basilica you will be soon captured by the all-beautiful Cosmatesque floor and the raised presbitery at the bottom of the nave.
The Papal Altar is surmountated by a ciborium in cosmati style with 4 columns, behind which is the Papal throne. Another characteristic of the basilica is the absence of an apse: in fact, the present church was born from the fusion of the two precious basilicas, built in different periods, and they were adjacent but not perfectly aligned.
At the bottom of the nave on the right opens the 19th-century Chapel of Saint Tarcisio, built by Virginio Vespignani. The left aisle ends with the underground Chapel of Saint Ciriaca in Baroque style with two funeral monuments designed by Pietro da Cortona.
In the crypt of the basilica are kept the tombs of Saints Lawrence and Stephen, while the Chapel of Pius IX, built by Raffaele Cattaneo in late 19th century, can be entered from the lateral aisles.
BASILICA OF SAINT LAWRENCE OUTSIDE THE WALLS - COURTYARD
From the Chapel of Saint Tarcisius, passing through the sacristy you will access the Courtyard of the Basilica of Saint Lawrence.
This is formed by arches with single columns surmounted by the so-called composite capitals, long and trapezoidal. On the walls hang Medieval inscriptions, tomb fragments and remains of ancient sculptures, presented as a stone collection.
To end with, from the courtyard can be entered the Catacombs of Ciriaca, that can be visited on request. It houses interesting Early Christian paintings.
Read now the box at the bottom of the page for further information about opening hours and how to get to the Basilica of Saint Lawrence.
If you found this article interesting, in view of the great extraordinary Jubilee announced by Pope Francis, we invite you to read our in-depth article about the four Papal basilicas of Rome.
- HOW TO GET THERE
- From the Port of Civitavecchia: Go to Civitavecchia Train Station and get on the first regional train bound for Rome. After about 1 hour and 10 minutes get off at Roma Termini and go to Piazza dei Cinquecento. From there, take bus 310 (VESCOVIO) for 5 stops and get off at stop UNIVERSITA'/REGINA ELENA. Continue for a few minutes on foot until you find yourself in front of the Basilica and the Verano Cemetery.
*For train timetables refer to the official site of Trenitalia.
- WinterEvery day at 7.30-12.30 / 15.30-19.00SummerEvery day at 7.30-12.30 / 16.00-20.00Mass Times:Winter- Working days: 8.00 and 18.00- Holidays: 8.30, 10.00, 11.00, 12.00 and 18.00Summer- Working days: ore 8.00 and 19.00- Holidays: 8.30, 10:00, 11.00 and 19.00