Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Merger of two churches built around the tomb of St. Lawrence Spanish deacon martyr under Valerian (253/260): the first church dates back to the end of the sixth century and the second to the beginning of thirteenth century
Constantine in about 330 rearranged the crypt which housed St. Lawrence's relics and built a FUNERARY BASILICA although some believe it was built under Pope Sixtus III (432/440)
Pelagius II (579/590) erected a MINOR BASILICA as an extension of the chapel with the tomb of St. Lawrence and parallel to the large basilica of Constantine that was destroyed between 800 and 1100
Clement III (1187/91) built the cloister and fortified the sacred citadel known as LAURENTIOPOLIS
Honorius III Savelli (1216/27) gave the church its present appearance by building a third church, with an entrance on the opposite side and in continuation of the Basilica of Pelagius II which was partially buried
Several successive restorations. The last ones were in 1855/64 with Virginio Vespignani (1808/82) and after the Allied Forces bombing during World War II that destroyed the roof and made extensive damage
It is one of the five Patriarchal Basilicas of Rome or Basilicae Maiores: they also represent symbolically the Pentarchy or all five patriarchs of the United Church as it was before there was the schism that had divided east from west:
1) St. John Lateran - Patriarch of Rome
2) St. Peter's in the Vatican - Patriarch of Constantinople
3) St. Paul Outside the Walls - Patriarch of Alexandria
4) St. Mary Major - Patriarch of Antioch
5) Basilica of St. Lawrence outside the Walls - Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem from 1374 until 1847 when the title was abolished
Granite column with "Bronze statue of St. Lawrence" 1865 by Stefano Galletti (1832/1905) pupil of Pietro Tenerani
FAÇADE rebuilt after the bombing
About 1220 maybe by the Vassalletto family
On either side of the portal "Lions" from the old porch
On the walls late thirteenth century frescoes restored after the bombing: "Stories of Sts. Lawrence and Stephen" and, on the right, "Stories of Count Henry devotee of St. Lawrence", on the left "History of the Miraculous Mass of St. Peter in 1061" remade in the nineteenth century
Along the right wall "Sarcophagus with scenes from the Bible" of the late fourth century
To the right of the main door "Marble stele" to celebrate the visit of Pope Pius XII (1939/58) of 19 July 1943
On the left "Sarcophagus with reliefs representing harvesting of grapes" of the sixth century
On the left wall "Monument to Alcide De Gasperi" by Giacomo Manzù (1908/91)
To the right of the church, further in the back there is the MONASTERY preceded by the ELL TOWER in bricks of the end of twelfth century, restored
The Pelagian Basilica has been adapted as the presbytery of Honorius' Basilica
Twenty-two ancient columns with medieval capitals
"The idea of a new order based on varietas (variety) retains the sense of hierarchy of ancient materials: the colors of the columns will be chosen according to an idea of route to the altar, that will bring the most precious materials and more similar to the noble porphyry closer to the presbytery. There is also another consequence, that of imitation: the workshops are camouflaged in their models. In St. Lawrence outside the Walls, the Roman Vassalletto workshop had produced already at the beginning of 1200, a large number of capitals in imitation of the old, one of which is decorated with figures of a frog and a lizard, which still exists in the left aisle. At the end of 1700 Winckelmann, visiting the church, believed to be in front of a Greek original, in which the frog and the lizard would be the figurative signature of the two artists Batrace and Sauro, whose names mean exactly the lizard and frog. The perfection of the medieval work faking an ancient work well explains the misunderstanding" (Serena Romano)
"Tomb of Cardinal Guglielmo Fieschi" who died in 1256 with "Sarcophagus depicting a wedding rite" of the third century
FLOOR, two AMBOS and cosmatesque CANDLESTICK of the first half of thirtheen century
The decoration in fresco of the MAIN NAVE made under Pius IX was destroyed in World War II except for the fresco of the triumphal arch and the one in the counter-façade by Cesare Fracassini (1838/68) from Orvieto, pupil of Tommaso Minardi
Fragments of frescoes on the wall "Four Saints and Madonna and Child" from the area behind the Basilica of Crescentius
At the end of the aisle CHAPEL OF St. TARCISIO Virginio Vespignani
"S. Ciriaca burying St. Lawrence" 1619 by Emilio Savonanzi (1580/1660)
On the left "Beheading of St. John the Baptist" 1619 by Giovanni Serodine (about 1600/30)
On either side of the entrance to the underground chapel of St. Ciriaca redecorated in 1676:
"Tomb of Bernardo Guglielmi" famous jurist with bust by François Duquesnoy (1597/1643) and "Tomb of Girolamo Aleandro" archaeologist with bust by Antonio Giorgetti (active since 1660/d. 1669) who replaced the bust of John Barclay also by Duquesnoy now in St. Onuphrius
Both tombs were orchestrated in 1627 by Pietro Berrettini aka Pietro da Cortona (1597/1669)
"Tomb of St. Lawrence" arranged by Virginio Vespignani among four ancient columns of breccia black and white marble
Superb ancient "Trabeation" of the fourth century resting on pavonazzetto marble columns and supporting the gallery
Cosmatesque mosaic floor from the time of Honorius III (1216/27)
"Ciborium" 1148 the oldest works by the Roman so-called marmorari: Giovanni, Pietro, Angelo e Sasso sons of Paolo
"Bishop's chair" 1254
On the FRONT OF THE ARCH that used to face the faithful in the Pelagian Basilica gorgeous mosaic "Jesus with on the right Sts. Paul, Stephen and Ippolito and on the left Peter, Lawrence and Pelagius II" about 579/590
UNDER THE ARCH "Garland of flowers and fruits"
"The mosaic shows the coexistence of different styles due to various models, including an essentially linear representation, almost abstract, which will have its full identity in the mosaic of St. Agnes (625/638). However it is not a consequential development" (Carlo Bertelli, Giuliano Briganti, Antonio Giuliano)
FUNERARY CHAPEL OF PIUS IX Mastai-Ferretti (1846/78)
1882/95 by Raffaele Cattaneo (1861/89), a genius who died at age 29. It was derived from the lower Basilica of Pelagius
Mosaics designed by Ludovico Seitz (1844/1908)
End of twelfth century. Windows upstairs dating back to the fifteenth century
On the walls inscriptions and ruins of classical and medieval sculptures
From the cloister one can have access to the CATACOMB OF CIRIACA with some paintings: "Christ between two saints", "Jonah", "Moses", "Good Shepherd"

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