Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday of Fourth Week: San Lorenzo in Damaso

Here we come Tuesday!  Today is the day that we're meeting our fourth church dedicated to St. Lawrence.  This one began under the patronage of Pope St. Damasus (+384) who during his papacy converted the hall of his home into a church in honor of the martyr deacon.  The original basilica had roughly the same orientation as the present one.  St. Damasus' home was located near the stables that housed one of the chariot teams of ancient Rome (the 'Green' team) and so back in his day this church was also called St. Lawrence in Prasino (prasino being the Latin word for 'leek green').
San Lorenzo in Damaso

This church survived without much additional adornment or renovation until the fifteenth century when the new papal chancellery was built on this site.  They demolished the original basilica to make way for the new building, but a replacement church was included in the new building design, so this is one of the few station churches we'll see that does not have any 'original' portions of the first church that remain to the present day.  It's also why you might very well pass by this church without even knowing you're seeing one!  The exterior entrance looks like any other entrance to a random building in the city.

The chancellery and church were finished by the early sixteenth century in 1511.  It was damaged a few times, particularly during the Napoleonic occupation of Rome in 1798 and in a fire in 1939.  But the current interior is largely due to two major renovations that took place in 1807-1820 and then again in 1868-1882.  So if you want to see textbook nineteenth century sacred art and architecture, this is the place for you!  In the high altar are buried Ss. Damasus and Eutyches.


We were able to walk through Piazza Navona this morning since it was on our way to school, so I took a shot of this wide open space that is especially beautiful and relatively tourist-free.  The large sculpture in the center of this piazza is the work of Bernini, and the church you see if Sant' Agnese in Agone (St. Agnes in Agony):

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