Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls

Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls
Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (Italian)

The Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura is a shrine to the martyred Roman deacon St. Lawrence. An Allied bombing on 19 July 1943, during the Second World War, devastated the facade, which was subsequently rebuilt.
Basic information
Location Rome, Italy
Geographic coordinates 41°54′09″N 12°31′14″E / 41.90250°N 12.52056°E / 41.90250; 12.52056Coordinates: 41°54′09″N 12°31′14″E / 41.90250°N 12.52056°E / 41.90250; 12.52056
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Province Diocese of Rome
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Papal Basilica
Leadership P. Bruno Mustacchio
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Groundbreaking 4th century
Direction of façade WbS
Length 90 metres (300 ft)
Width 25 metres (82 ft)
Width (nave) 14 metres (46 ft)

The Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls (Italian: Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo fuori le Mura) is a Roman Catholic Papal[1] minor basilica and parish church, located in Rome, Italy. The Basilica is one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome and one of the five former "patriarchal basilicas", each of which was assigned to the care of a Latin Church patriarchate. The Basilica was assigned to the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Basilica is the shrine of the tomb of its namesake, Saint Lawrence (sometimes spelled "Laurence"), one of the first seven deacons of Rome who was martyred in 258. Many other saints and Bl. Pope Pius IX are also buried at the Basilica, which is the center of a large and ancient burial complex.


Before the present-day Basilica was constructed, the former estate upon which it sits was once home to a small oratory built by Emperor Constantine I. The Emperor built it over the site on which it tradition held that St. Lawrence was executed in 258. In the 580s, Pope Pelagius II commissioned the construction of a church over the site in honor of the Saint. In the 13th century, Pope Honorius III commissioned the construction of another church in front of the older one. It was adorned with frescos depicting the lives of Saint Lawrence and the first martyred deacon, St. Stephen, who is interred with St. Lawrence in the crypt, or confessio, under the high altar. The two structures were later united during a program of urban renewal. Excavations have revealed several other crypts of various persons, buried below the contemporary street level. Pope St. Hilarius is also buried here.

The portico of circa 1220 has Cosmatesque decoration by the Vassalletto family of craftsmen. The 13th-century frescoes, which were reconstructed, depict scenes from the lives of St. Lawrence and St. Stephen, both being martyred, young deacons. There are two ancient sarcophagi in the portico: a Christian one, possibly decorated in the 7th century on an older sarcophagus, has a relief depicting putti (cherubs) picking grapes. While vines and grapes are symbols of the Holy Eucharist, these images are probably not symbols thereof. Further, two Romanesque stone lions were moved here from the old entrance.

The campanile was built in the 12th century. Immediately inside the entrance is the tomb of Guglielmo Cardinal Fieschi, who died in 1256, but was entombed in an ancient sarcophagus, itself being incidentally carved with a relief depicting a pagan marital feast.

Inside, the choir enclosure and pulpit have Cosmatesque decoration, and there is also a fine Cosmatesque Paschal candlestick from the 12th or 13th century. The antique Ionic capital on the column directly behind the pulpit has carvings of a frog and a lizard. On the triumphal arch are Byzantine mosaics from the 6th century, depicting Christ with saints. The confessio below the high altar is entered from the nave. Here, St. Lawrence and St. Stephen are enshrined. The latter was transferred from Constantinople by Pope Pelagius II during his restoration of the Basilica. Behind the high altar is a Papal altar with an inscription of the names of the makers, namely the Cosmati family, and dating it to 1148.

The Basilica was home to the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1374 to 1847. In 1943 the Basilica was bombed during the Second World War. Restoration continued until 1948, allowing some accretions from the 19th century to be removed. However, the frescoes on the facade were destroyed.



  1. Pope Benedict XVI’s ecclesiastical act of renouncing the title of "Patriarch of the West" in 2006 had as a consequence that the Roman Catholic "patriarchal basilicas" were officially re-styled "Papal basilicas".


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