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San Lorenzo in Damaso

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Title: San Lorenzo in Damaso  
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Subject: Teodolfo Mertel, Henry Benedict Stuart, Palazzo della Cancelleria, Stefano Maderno, Churches of Rome
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San Lorenzo in Damaso

San Lorenzo in Damaso (Saint Lawrence in the House of Damasus) is a basilica church in central Rome, Italy. It is incorporated into the Palazzo della Cancelleria.

Entrance to San Lorenzo in Damaso, incorporated into side facade of the Cancelleria


  • History 1
  • Interior 2
    • Chapels 2.1
  • References 3


Archeologic evidence suggests the site, like many loci for Roman churches, may have housed a pagan temple. The first documentary evidence of a church at this site is the reference in the synod of Pope Symmachus (499) of a Titulus Damasi. According to tradition, in the 380s a basilica church was built by Pope Damasus I in his own house. This church is one of many dedicated to the Roman deacon and martyr Saint Lawrence, including the more ancient and then extra-urban, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, that was rebuilt by the same Pope Damasus. The original basilica for San Lorenzo in Damaso was demolished by Cardinal Raffaele Riario, a nephew of Pope Sixtus IV who commissioned the imposing Renaissance-style Palazzo della Cancelleria (1489–1513). The palace was built using spolia and stone from nearby Ancient Roman buildings, including the Colosseum and enveloped the new church of San Lorenzo under the right wing; the entrance is located at number 1, Piazza della Cancelleria, on the right flank of the facade.

The architect of the church, like that of the palace, is unclear. Among the persons to whom the palace design is presently attributed are Baccio Pontelli, while Titi suggests Bramante, and other authors had cited Giuliano da Sangallo and Andrea Bregno.[1] reconstruction of the church is also independently attributed to Bramante by Titi.

The last restoration was necessary after a fire that damaged the basilica in 1944. The Cardinal Priest of the Titulus S. Laurentii in Damaso is Antonio Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid.


Interior of San Lorenzo
Seated Hippolytus at Vatican

The interior decoration was begun by commissions by the resident of the Palace, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, in the late 16th century. The walls of the right counterfacade were painted by Cavaliere d'Arpino. The main altar has a canvas depicting Saints and Coronation of Mary by Zuccari. The altar is set above the relics of Saints Pope Eutychian and Pope Damasus I. To the left of the altar is a copy of a statue of St Hippolytus of Rome; the original is a restored antique statue in the Vatican Library. Legend holds that Hippolytus was converted to Christianity by the dint of St Lawrence.

This copy was commissioned for the church by Cardinal Ottoboni. The Portal was designed by Vignola. Immediately to the right of the entrance is the memorial to Alessandro Valtrini, a minister of Pope Urban VIII, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1639. The second vestibule has statues of Saints Francis Xavier and Charles Borromeo by Stefano Maderno.


To the right of the entrance is a chapel designed by Nicola Salvi, commissioned by Cardinal Tommaso Ruffo in the late 18th century. The ceiling is frescoed with Glory of San Nicola by Corrado Giaquinto, and the altarpiece of Virgin with Saints Filippo Neri and Nicolò was painted by Sebastiano Conca. To the left of the entrance is the Chapel of the Sacrament, commissioned by Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni and frescoed by Andrea Casali. The altarpiece is a Last Supper by Vincenzo Berrettini[2]

Monument for Pellegrino Rossi, sculpted by Tenerani.

Inside the church, the first chapel to the right of the nave has a 19th-century monument to Prince Camillo Massimi and his wife, works respectively by Filippo Gnaccarini and Pietro Tenerani.

The second chapel to the right has the tomb of Pellegrino Rossi, the last minister of the Papal States under Pius IX, by Pietro Tenerani. His murder in 1848 in the adjacent palace was one of the events that led to the ensconcement of the pope in the Vatican City, and the annexation of the Papal States to the Kingdom of Italy.

The first chapel to the left has the tomb and funerary monument of Cardinal Ludovico Trevisan, Patriarch of Aquileia, with a recumbent statue by Paolo Romano.

The second chapel to the left contains the tomb of Fra Annibal Caro (1566), a work by Giovanni Antonio Dosio.

A chapel near the sacristy has an altarpiece depicting the Madonna delle Gioie by Nicolò Circignani, called il Pomarancio, and two silver statues (Saints Lorenzo and Damaso) by Ciro Ferri.[3]

A further chapel is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of the Agonizing Jesus, and contains a portrait of Pope Leo XIII proclaiming the statutes of the Pious Union of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the chapel's 19th century architect Vincenzo De Rossi Re. The founding of this fraternity was celebrated in this church in 1883.

The chapel of the Santissima Concezione completed and frescoed (1635–1638) by a young Pietro da Cortona. Other works include the monument of Cardinal Trevisan (1505).


  1. ^  
  2. ^ This may in fact be Pietro da Cortona.
  3. ^ Titi, page 122.

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