Rome: Minor Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls (Basilica di San Lorenzo fuori le mura)
About Saint Lawrence:
One of the deacons of the early Church, he was ordered by the Emperor Valerian to produce all the wealth he had. He showed up with men who were poor, crippled, and ill. As he explained, “the true wealth of the Church” were those men.
Incensed by this the emperor sentenced him to die by roasting him on a gridiron. Keeping his sense of humor to his last moment, he famously said, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side!” St. Lawrence was martyred on August 10, 258 and we celebrate his Feast day each year on August 10..
An interesting note: There is a meteor shower every year that has been named “the Tears of St. Lawrence” The peak of the meteor showers happens to land right around on August 10th, the date of his martrydom. Not sue how exactly it got its name, but the story goes the burning meteors look like the coals that could’ve been used to kill St. Lawrence.
About the Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls:
The Minor Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls is one of Rome’s oldest churches and houses the relics not only of Saint Lawrence but also of Saint Justin and Saint Stephen.
It is one of the seven station churches of Rome. If all are visited by a pilgrim, then you are granted a plenary indulgence.
The origins of this church come from the Emperor Constantine, who built an oratory here in honor of the site where it was assumed that Saint Lawrence was martyred. Later, in the 6th Century, a church was built here. Even later, in the 12th Century, another Church was built. The Basilica is of the simpler style of the earlier Christian churches, which makes it somewhat unique among Roman Basilicas.
The Basilica was damaged by Allied bombing in 1943 and later rebuilt in 1948. Unfortunately, the frescoes that originally adorned the Basilica were lost.
At the very back end of the church is the tomb of Pope Pius IX. Pius IX was the longest-reigning Pope in history, having been Pope for over 32 years, from 1846 until his death on February 7, 1878. He was notable for convoking the First Vatican Council in 1868 and for permanently losing control of the Papal States in 1870 to the Kingdom of Italy. who was beatified in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. Although not a feast day or memorial, we celebrate the date of his death on February 7.
Finding the Minor Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls:
The name “outside the walls” is a bit misleading……it is outside of the original city walls, but not very far from the city center. It is about one mile from Vatican City and only about 1/4 mile from the Trevi Fountain, so you can definitely include it in any walking tour of the city.
Address: Piazzale del Verano 3, 00185 Rome, Italy
We are not aware of any official website of the Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls (San Lorenzo).
The city of Milan in northern Italy also boasts a Basilica of Saint Lawrence.
There is also a Basilica of Saint Lawrence in the United States. Click here for the Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville, North Carolina.