Swedish Research in 

San Lorenzo in Lucina 


- The Transformations  
of a Late Antique  
Roman Quarter 

First page 

Why San Lorenzo in Lucina? 






Made by: Olof Brandt  

Swedish Institute in Rome  
Web page:   
Via Omero 14  
I-00197 Rome, Italy  
E-mail: isvroma@vatlib.it  


INSCRIPTIONS The inscription of Hilarina
Inscriptions in San Lorenzo in Lucina The portico

 Inscriptions in San Lorenzo in Lucina

by Anna Blennow (University of Göteborg).   

The church San Lorenzo in Lucina, like many other churches and buildings  
in Rome, has a collection of elder inscriptions, most of them attached to  
the walls of the portico.  

A number of early christian inscriptions were found during an excavation  
beneath palazzo Fiano, in close vicinity to the church, in 1872. They  
belonged to a tomb-area from the 8th century, and have probably  
been brought to the church frome some abandoned catacomb to serve  
as building materials, as was usual at that time. Also medieval material was  
found. Most important were the fragments of an epitaph for a certain deacon  
named Paulus. It is dated to 783, the time of pope Hadrian I, during which a  
large number of churches in Rome were restored, including San Lorenzo in Lucina.  
The damage to the material may have been a result of later plundering, most  
probable in 1084, when Robert Guiscard with his Norman soldiers sacked Rome  
for three days, and the region of the church was almost completely destroyed.  

Below, each inscription has a number preceded by a letter indicating W(est),  
E(ast) or S(outh) wall of the portico.  

The early christian inscriptions 

Hic iacet Rigina qu<a>e vixit annus pl(us) m(inus) XVII d(e)p(osita)   
XVII kal(endas) oct(obres)  

Translation: ”Here lies Regina, who lived more or less for seventeen years  and was buried seventeen days before the kalendae of October (the 15th of september).”  

The narrow letter-proportions and the thin lines without modulation are  
typical for early christian inscriptions. The crux monogrammatica in the  
upper line and the formula hic iacet date the inscription to the 4th or 5th  
century. (ICUR I, 428; ILCV 3060; de Rossi 1872–73, 51) 

S5 (photo, see S7 below).  
LUS Qui vixit   
[l]EOnis de[p]   
Translation: ”...lus who lived ... buried [during the consulate of] Leo”  
(late 5th century)  

The letters are irregular with no line-modulation and inconsistently used  serifs. X has the typical emphasis on the diagonals, which is common in  inscriptions of late antiquity. ”The consulate of Leo” would date the  inscription to 458, 474 or 475. (ICUR I, 423; de Rossi 1872–73, 49) 

[---] nus XXII receptus in pace [---] s   
Translation: ”... twenty-two years, received in peace ...”  

The letter-proportions are close to the Roman capitalis quadrata, and the formula receptus in pace dates the inscription to the 3rd or 4th century. (ICUR I,  429; ILCV 2922, de Rossi 1872–73, 49) 

[---] opra [---] resb [---]   

This fragment originates from an inscription of pope Damasus (366–384). He was the author of several inscriptions in verse about martyrs. The designer of the very beautiful letter-forms was the pope's friend Furius Dionysius Filocalus.  The distinct character of the letters – a remarkable contrast between thick  and thin strokes, the stem ending in a drop-shape, and thin, curled, elegant serifs – makes it possible to distinguish the filocalian letter from  imitations and thus confirm the origin of an inscription even in a very  
small fragment like this. (ICUR I, 425; de Rossi 1872–73, 52; Ihm 1895, 54; ED 56) 

All the inscriptions above are preserved in the portico.  

The Paulus-inscription 

parce praecor Paulo sanct[oru]m maxim[e praesul]   
alta patere poli fac illi culmina Chr[iste]   
vivat in aeterio felix per secla [senatu]   
luce fruatur ovans [re]gno laetetur O[lympi]   
vita sequatur eum mortis sic vincula vincat   
semper in aeterna caelesti floreat aula   
pauso sepultus ego Paulus praesentib(us) exul   
dep(ositus) id(ibus) mart(iis) ind(ictione) VI temp(ore) d(omini) n(ostri)   
Hadriani papae   

”Have mercy upon Paulus, I beg, o foremost of the hallowed;  
Open the heights of the sky for him, o Christ;  
May he live fortunate through the centuries in the ethereal senate;  
May he enjoy the light, exultant,  and rejoice in the kingdom of the Olymp;  
May life follow him, and so may he conquer the chains of death;  
May he always flower in the eternal palace of heaven.  
Here I, Paulus, lie buried, an exile from the present.  
Buried on the Idus (the 15th) of March, in the 6th indiction, in the time of  our lord pope Hadrianus.”  

The inscription is hexametrical, and the letter-forms are well-executed for  the late 8th century. The acrostics (the first and last letters of each  line, read from top to bottom) read Paulus Levita (deacon). The inscription  is fixed to the wall to the right of the entrance to the Scavi. (ICUR I, XIV, 2; de Rossi 1872–73, 42) 


The 12th century inscriptions 

Five inscriptions from the 12th century are preserved in the church. They  
all relate to the eventfulness of this period, including restorations after  
the Norman sack in 1084; consecrations and reconsecrations of the church,  
new altars and an extensive collection of relics. Four of them are situated  
in the portico, and the fifth is found on the cathedra hidden by the 17th  
century wooden panel behind the altar.  

(Silvagni 1943, XXII, 2–3; XXIII, 2,6; XXVI, 4)  
S10 Inscription S10 describes how Leo, bishop of Ostia, consecrates an altar in S. Lorenzo in Lucina on January the 24th, 1112; and a list is added of  relics deposited in it. The cathedra inscription also mentions this consecration, but adds that the grid-iron of St. Laurentius and two vessels  filled with his blood were taken out from the old altar by pope Paschal II,  
and that the relics were viewed for several days by the Roman people before bishop Leo’s consecration on January the 24th. A mysterious time-error occurs in the inscription, namely the date of 27th of January for pope Paschal’s action, which of course can’t have occured after the consecration of the new altar.
Inscription no. S4 tells about a certain presbyter called Benedictus,  collecting relics of martyrs to the church between the years 1112–1119, and the relics are put in the high altar under the grid-iron of St. Laurentius. Then follows a long list of other relics deposited in this place, among them a vessel filled with burnt flesh of St. Laurentius.  
Inscription no. S9  describes the antipope Anacletus II consecrating the whole church in 1130, perhaps when the restorations, started under pope Paschal II, were completed.
The Lateran council of 1139, however, cancelled all actions performed by the antipope, and a new consecration was needed. This was made as late as 1196 by pope Celestinus III, an event which is recorded in inscription no. S3 

Ihm 1895  
Anthologiae Latinae Supplementa: Damasi epigrammata, ed. M. Ihm, Leipzig 1895.  

Epigrammata Damasiana, ed. Ferrua, A., Città del Vaticano 1942.  

Inscriptiones Christianae Urbis Romae  I, ed. Silvagni, Roma 1922.  

Inscriptiones Latinae Christianae Veteres, ed. E. Diehl, Berlin 1961.  

Silvagni 1943  
Monumenta epigraphica Christiana saeculo XIII antiquiora, ed. A. Silvagni, Città del Vaticano 1943.  

de Rossi 1872–73  
de Rossi, G. B., ”Sepolcri del secolo ottavo scoperti presso la chiesa di S. Lorenzo in Lucina”, Bullettino della commissione archeologia municipale, 1872–73, pp. 42–53.