begin in 1982
Although restored and rebuilt several
times, the Early Christian basilica with its nave, aisle and apse
is still standing in the modern Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, after more
than 1600 years. Much of the past is hidden beneath the sixteenth century
floor, raised to the modern street level in 1598. This space was used for
tombs until the late nineteenth century. The Swedish excavation 1993-1998
was the continuation of earlier research made by archeologists of different
nationalities beneath the floor of the church.
Already in the thirties, Richard
Krautheimer explored some of these crypts and discovered the thresholds
of the fifth century church and some T-shaped piers of a big Roman third
century building (an "insula").
In the early eighties, the church
was in bad conditions due to the humidity which rose in the walls. In 1982,
the Soprintendenza began to clean the space beneath the floor hoping to
save the church, considering also the new interest in the archaeology of
the area since the important research on the Horologium Augusti
begun by the German archaeologist Edmund Buchner in the seventies.
It was then decided to clear the
space beneath the floor. This work, from 1982 to 1987, was supervised by
Maria Elena Bertoldi, who presented the results in the Bollettino di
archeologia in 1992. The rests of buildings from the second century
onwards which were excavated beneath the church have little or nothing
to do with the Horologium, because in the early second century, the ground
level was raised in the Horologium area. The excavation uncovered
rests of the fifth century basilica, of the third century insula and two
parts of buildings from the second century, perhaps belonging to the same
building. These second century rests were a room with a mosaic and
rests of a painted wall beneath the apse of the church. In 1987, the excavations
were consolidated with brick walls.
General view of the excavated
Roman third century "insula" beneath San Lorenzo in Lucina.
|German participation 1982-1983
During these explorations, the German
Institute collaborated with two deep trenches as a part of the research
on the Horologium. The results were presented in an article by Friedrich
Rakob in 1987. The trench beneath the sacristy, made in 1983, was the
beginning of that excavation that the Swedish Institute continued in 1993.
In order to reach the crypt beneath the sacristy, the German archaeologists
opened a passage from the rest of the excavations to the crypt beneath
the so called Sala dei Canonici, a 15th century chapel on the west side
of the church. From there, another opening was then made to the crypt beneath
the sacristy. This partial exploration of the crypt beneath the Sala dei
Canonici uncovered rests of two basins: one smaller rectangular, wich was
completely uncovered, and one bigger circular, which was only partially
Right: The Sala dei Canonici above
the crypt where the Early Christian baptistery was excavated 1993-1998.
Drawing: Torun Hammar.
Maria Elena Bertoldi understood that
this was the baptistery of the Early Christian church, but the excavations
of the baptistery was not completed. The baptistery was object of the
Swedish Excavations 1993-1998.
Background: What are the Early Christian
Baptisteries? Read here!
The story continues: Read about The