Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, Italy

Introduction

The Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo fuori le mura (Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls) is a Roman Catholic papal minor basilica and parish church, located in Rome, Italy. Basilica, one of Rome’s Seven Pilgrim Churches[1] and a member of the group of five “papal basilicas” (previously known as “patriarchal basilicas”), was entrusted to the care of the Latin Church patriarchate. Originally, the basilica was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. It serves as the sacred site where Lawrence (sometimes spelled “Laurence”), one of Rome’s initial seven deacons, martyred in 258, is entombed. Additionally, numerous other saints and Pope Pius IX find their resting place within the Basilica, which remains at the heart of a vast and ancient burial complex.

Before the current basilica was erected, the land it now occupies housed a small oratory constructed by Emperor Constantine I. This oratory was built atop the spot where tradition holds that Saint Lawrence was buried in 258. Later, Pope Damasus I, who once served there as a deacon, undertook the restoration or rebuilding of the church.

In the 580s, Pope Pelagius II initiated the construction of a church on the same site to honor Lawrence. Subsequently, in the 13th century, Pope Honorius III commissioned the construction of another church in front of the older one. Elements of Honorius’s church, including part of the nave and the triumphal arch, were integrated, though not perfectly aligned.

This new church featured frescoes portraying the lives of Lawrence and the first martyred deacon, Stephen, both entombed together in the crypt, or confessio, beneath the high altar. Excavations uncovered several other crypts of various individuals buried beneath the current street level, including Pope Hilarius.

The portico, dating back to circa 1220, boasts Cosmatesque decoration by the Vassalletto family of artisans. The 13th-century frescoes, reconstructed over time, illustrate scenes from the lives of Lawrence and Stephen, highlighting their martyrdoms as young deacons. Additionally, the portico houses two ancient sarcophagi, one Christian, possibly adorned in the 7th century, featuring a relief depicting cherubs harvesting grapes. Although grapes and vines symbolize the Holy Eucharist, these images may not directly represent it. Furthermore, two Romanesque stone lions were relocated here from the original entrance.

The bell tower, constructed in the 12th century, stands nearby. Just inside the entrance lies the tomb of Cardinal Guglielmo Fieschi, who passed away in 1256. Interestingly, he was interred in an ancient sarcophagus, inadvertently decorated with a relief depicting a pagan marriage feast.

In 1819, the renowned painter J. M. W. Turner visited San Lorenzo, where he created several sketches.

Interior

Within the basilica, the choir enclosure and pulpit feature intricate Cosmatesque decoration, along with a splendid Cosmatesque Paschal candlestick likely dating back to the 12th or 13th century. Notably, the antique Ionic capital adorning the column just behind the pulpit showcases carvings depicting a frog and a lizard. Adorning the triumphal arch are Byzantine mosaics originating from the 6th century, portraying Christ alongside saints. Accessible from the nave, the confessio beneath the high altar serves as the resting place for Lawrence and Stephen. The latter was brought from Constantinople by Pope Pelagius II during the basilica’s restoration. Positioned behind the high altar lies a papal altar, bearing an inscription acknowledging the Cosmati family as its creators and dating it to 1148.

In the chapel of San Tarcisio, situated at the end of the right nave, rests a painting titled “Beheading of the Baptist,” created by Giovanni Serodine in 1619.

From 1374 to 1847, the basilica served as the residence of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem. A restoration project in the mid-19th century was carried out by Virginio Vespignani.

Reconstruction

During the Second World War in 1943, the Basilica suffered bombing by American planes. Restoration efforts persisted until 1948, resulting in the removal of certain additions from the 19th century. Regrettably, the frescoes on the facade perished in the bombings.

Subsequently, the brick facade underwent complete reconstruction.

Adjacent to a significant cemetery, the basilica frequently hosts numerous funerals.

Annual Feast Day

Feast Date : 10th August

The annual feast day of the Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Wall sis celebrated on 10th August each year.

Mass Timing

Winter

Weekly Masses :

Monday to Friday : 8.00 am and 06.00 pm

Weekend Masses :

Saturday & Sunday : 8.30 am, 10.00 am, 11.00 am, 12.00 pm and 06.00 pm

Summer

Weekly Masses :

Monday to Friday : 8.00 am and 07.00 pm

Weekend Masses :

Saturday & Sunday : 8.30 am , 10:00 am, 11.00 am and 07.00 pm

Church Visiting Hours

  • Monday to sunday   : 7:30 am–12 pm, 4:00 pm–7:00 pm

Contact Info

Piazzale del Verano,3,
00185 Roma RM, 
Italy

Phone No.

Connectivities

Airway

The nearest major airport to Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls is  Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport. which is 23.4 km away from the Shrine.

Railway

The nearest Metro to the Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls is Basilica San Paolo (line B). which is 8 km away from the Shrine.

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