Saint Lawrence outside the Walls Basilica Rome

The Papal Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls (Basilica Papale di San Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura) is one of the seven so-called Pilgrim Churches of Rome. It is the only one of the five Papal basilicas that does not have a Holy Door. The church is located just north of the city’s student district, unofficially know as San Lorenzo, to which it also gave its name.

Saint Lawrence outside the Walls Basilica Rome

Address, opening hours and admission

The address of the Basilica di San Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura is Piazzale del Verano, 3 – Rome (tel. +39 06491511.). Bus: 3, 19, 71, 88, 443, 542, 545, 11n. Opening hours: Winter: 07.30-12.30 15.30-19.00; Summer: 07.30-12.30 16.00-20.00. Admission: Free.

History and description

Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls Basilica Rome
Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls (19th century).

The Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls started its existence as a small oratorium. It was built by the emperor Constantine, in the spot where the saint was thought to have been martyred in the year 258.

Towards the end of the 6th century Pope Pelagius II had an actual church constructed at this site. In the 13th century it was Pope Honorius II who had a new one built, in front of the existing church. Later the two churches were united into one structure.

Towards the end of the 11th century Pope Clement III had already had the cloister built. In those days there was also a fortified village called Laurentiopolis around the basilica.

Between 1855 and 1864 several elements of the church were modified by the architect Virgilio Vespignani.

In 1943 the area was bombed and a number of mosaics in the portico and frescoes on the facade were irreparably damaged. The restoration after the war undid most of Vespignani‘s changes and the basilica was restored to its medieval architecture.

Main attractions

The two lions beside the entrance were already present when the first version of the church was built.

The funerary monuments in the baroque Santa Ciriaca Chapel were designed by Pietro da Cortona.

Vespignani designed the San Tarcisio Chapel in the 19th century. Giovanni Serodine painted the “Beheading of John the Baptist” in this chapel in 1619.

The funerary chapel of Pope Pius IX was built towards the end of the 19th century. In order to do this the narthex of the 6th century basilica was used.

The ciborium was made in 1148.

The bishop’s seat is decorated with mosaics and colorful marble.

The mosaic on the triumphal arch depicts Christ between the saints Paul, Stephen, Hippolytus, Peter and Lawrence. Pope Pelagius is depicted handing Christ a scale model of the basilica.

The church is decorated with 13th century frescoes depicting events in the lives of Saint Lawrence and Saint Stephen.

Saint Lawrence is buried in the presbytery, between four black and white columns.

Saint Stephen, who is considered to be the first Christian martyr, is also buried in the church. It was Pope Pelagius II who had his remains brought over from Constantinople to Rome.

The cosmatesque decorations in the portico were made by the Vassaletti family, who specialized in this art.

The two antique sarcophagi in the portico are decorated with scenes from both the Old and the New Testament. There are also some decorations depicting harvest scenes.

Another sarcophagus can be seen in the entrance to the 12th century bell-tower. The relief shows a heathen wedding party.

Saint Lawrence outside the Walls Basilica – Piazzale del Verano 3, Rome

Via Tiburtina Rome

The Via Tiburtina begins at the Porta San Lorenzo and owes its name to the city of Tivoli (Tibur, in Latin), famous for its gardens, the Villa D’Este and the Villa Adriana. It is one of the socalled consular roads and runs straight through the university district. The Verano Cemetery and the gorgeous Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls are the biggest attractions along this street.

Via Tiburtina Rome

In the days of the Roman Republic the Via Tiburtina was extremely important since both agricultural products and marble were brought from Tivoli and surroundings to the Eternal City.

In 286 BC the Roman consul Marco Valerio Massimo Potito ordered the construction of the road. Initially the street started at the north-western corner of the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, where the ruins of the Trofei di Mario can be seen.

After the construction of the Aurelian Walls, the beginning of the road was moved to right outside the Porta Tiburtina.

In those days the road reached as far as Corfinio, in the province of L’Aquila. The first part, until Tivoli, got the name Via Tibur and the second part became the Via Valeria.

Between 48 and 49 AD the Emperor Claudio prolonged the road all the way to Pescara on the other coast. This last stretch became the Via Claudia Valeria.

The present Via Tiburtina Valeria (SS5) still connects Rome to Chieti and Pescara, but does not always follow the original route.

The first stretch of the Via Tiburtina is located in the Tiburtino district. The area to the right of the street is known as San Lorenzo. This is one of the most vibrant quarters of the city, since it is here that a good deal of the student population of Rome lives.

San Lorenzo ends when you reach Rome’s biggest cemetery, which is called Verano. The Basilica of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, one of the city’s most beautiful churches, is right next to the cemetery.

Via Tiburtina – Rome

Porta Tiburtina Rome

The Porta Tiburtina is also known as the Porta San Lorenzo and is located in the (unofficial quarter) of San Lorenzo.

Porta Tiburtina

Address

The Porta Tiburtina can be found along the Viale di Porta Tiburtina. District: Quartiere Tiburtino.

History and description

Porta Tiburtina Rome
Porta Tiburtina on the outside

The name Tiburtina comes from the Via Tiburtina, since that street left the city through this gate. The name Porta San Lorenzo came from the Church of Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, since the Via Tiburtina led to this church. To confuse matters further, at one point the gate was also known under the name Porta Taurina, thanks to the bull’s head on the arch’s keystone.

Originally the gate was just a commemorative arch, in honor of the three aqueducts, the Acqua Marcia, the Acqua Tepula and the Acqua Giulia, and it was not until later that it became part of the Aurelian Walls.

It is probably Aurelian who was responsible for the two towers flanking the gate.

In the 5th century BC Augustus restored the gate. Later, as inscriptions indicate, Vespasian and Septimius Severus also had work done on the gate and/or aqueducts.

Another inscription, over the outer arch, mentions a restoration by Honorius, who also had the inner arch, later removed by Pope Pius IX, built.

Viale di Porta Tiburtina – Rome

Tiburtino District Rome (Quartiere VI)

Tiburtino (Q. VI) is the official name of this district in Rome, but most Romans refer to it as San Lorenzo. The latter, however, is just one part of the quartiere, but it is here that most of Rome‘s students live, thanks to the presence of the La Sapienza University.

Tiburtino district Rome (Q. VI)

Tiburtino District Rome - Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls Basilica
Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls (19th century photograph).

Apart from the division in so-called rioni and quartieri there often is another division and that is the way the Romans themselves call parts of the city. Initially, in 1915, when the first quartieri were named, Tiburtino and San Lorenzo covered exactly the same area, but in 1931 the district was enlarged and the following year Casal Bertone was added. Thus the official Tibertino district became bigger, whereas the popular name of San Lorenzo stuck with the original part of the new quartiere.

Tiburtino District Rome Sights

San Lorenzo is clearly the main attraction of the area. Although it is not a very picturesque neighborhood (apart from the parts close to the city walls) it oozes atmosphere. Especially on Friday and Saturday nights, when traffic is not allowed into most of its streets, it can be extremely cozy.

The Cimitero del Verano is a beautiful and well-kept church-yard and also the Città  Universitaria is in Tiburtino.

The Basilica di San Lorenzo Fuori Le Mura (Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls) is one of Rome’s patriarchal basilicas.

Surprisingly, despite the huge student population Tiburtino is one of the areas with the highest average age in Rome.

Eating in Tiburtino

Thanks to the students’ presence in the area, there are of course many cheap place to eat. A perennenial favorite is Formula 1, one of the oldest and best pizzerias in the city.

A famous trattoria, recommended by many guidebooks, is Tram-Tram, near the Verano cemetery.

Quartiere Tiburtino – Rome