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

How the research began -

Italian excavations 1982-1987 
Italian excavations 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. 


General view of the excavated Roman third century "insula" beneath San Lorenzo in Lucina.
 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. 

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 excavated. 

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 excavations 1993-1998