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  


THE EXCAVATIONS Italian excavations 1982-1987
Swedish excavations 1993-1998 A 360° view of the excavation
Excavations 1993-1998: a Swedish-Italian collaboration 
On April 19th, 1993, the Soprintendenza invited the Swedish Institute to collaborate completing the excavation of the baptistery in the crypt beneath the Sala dei Canonici in order to make it possible to restore it and open it to the public. With grants from the Fondazione Famiglia Rausing, a small team worked in three campaigns, in 1993, 1995 and 1998.  


Right: The Sal dei Canonici above the crypt where the Early Christian baptistery was excavated 1993-1998. Drawing: Torun Hammar. 

In October 1993, Olof Brandt, Eva Minten and Ariadne Eleni Fioretou uncovered completely the circular font together with a 15th century tomb, built when the Early Christian baptistery was replaced after one thousand years by a fifteenth century chapel.  

In February 1995, Olof Brandt and Ariadne Eleni Fioretou concentrated on some small but precious Late Antique strata, sealed by the fifth century basilica. These strata were only partially excavated 1995 but were completely explored in November 1998 by Olof Brandt and Maria Johansson.  

The results are studied 1994-1998

The results of the 1993 campaign were presented at the congress of Archeologia Laziale in Rome and published in its acts. The 1995 campaign was briefly illustrated in the review of the Swedish Institute "Opuscula Romana".  

In February 1996, the Swedish Institute invited Swedish experts on conservation to discuss how to leave the baptistery after the end of the excavations. The experts agreed on the importance of measuring the humidity in order to choose the right materials. Thanks to a grant from the FFR, the humidity and the temperature were studied during one entire year by Salvatore Lorusso from Università degli studi della Tuscia (Viterbo). He could show that the humidity is always 100% while the temperature varies between 15 and 18,2 degrees Centigrade. Neither values is affected by shorter visits of groups around 15 persons. Conclusion: the baptistery can be visited without endangering it, but it is important to choose materials which resist the humidity.  

A fourth century funerary inscription of a woman named Flavia Hilarina, reused in the marble clad fifth century font, was published and commented on by Olof Brandt in 1994 in the "Rivista di archeologia cristiana".  

It is very unusual to have two fonts in the same baptistery, wrote Olof Brandt in 1998, and reflected on whether the secondary font was used for a gathering and blessing the water before the liturgy. This rite is well known from liturgical texts and the author showed that it has left traces in the legends of the martyrs although the archaeological traces are few.  

In 1997, Maria Elena Bertoldi discovered a 16th century protocol which ordered that the font of San Lorenzo in Lucina should be adapted "in another way". Does that mean that something of the fifth century baptistery had survived also after the construction of the 15th century chapel which destroyed most of it?  


The Swedish excavation 1993-1998 has touched upon the fifth century baptistery but also what was found beneath it. This makes it possible to make a new reconstruction of this Roman quarter in two different periods before the church was built in the fifth century.  

What we know about the second century AD: Read here  

What we know about the third century AD and later phases: Read here  

Plans for the future

With the pages of this site, we want to show that much information can be gathered just looking again at what has already been excavated. Perhaps it is a good idea to stop digging holes in the ground for a while and rather concentrate on gathering all this information which only waits to be read. It would really be pity not to read the story that this open book wants to tell us. For this reason, the Swedish institute is now working in a project where Swedish, Italian and other scholars examine all existing information not only from our excavation but also from the older ones together with various questions related to the church; the publication of the excavation will be completed by studies in archaeology, art history, epigraphy and hagiography. The conclusions will be put on this web site and published as a volume.  

The aim is to make the ancient rests tell us all they know about what happened here when Roman Antiquity became Middle Ages and when Rome became a Christian city.