San Lorenzo in Fonte Church Rome

The San Lorenzo in Fonte Church is located in the Via Urbana in the Monti district of Rome. The most interesting part of the church is the underground chamber where Saint Lucillo was held prisoner before dying a martyr’s death. The architect Carlo Fontana is buried in this church.

San Lorenzo in Fonte Church Rome

Useful information

The address of the church is Via Urbana, 50 – 00184 Rome (tel. +39 064882120). Bus: 75, 84, 117. The church is open from 7:30am to 2pm and from 4pm to 7:30pm. Admission is free. To visit the underground part of the church, reservations must be made by phone.

History and description

San Lorenzo in Fonte Kerk Rome
San Lorenzo in Fonte Church

The church has an austere facade and is almost invisibly wedged between a number of terraced houses. It owes its existence to a legend mentioned (barely legible) above the tympanum with the words S. Laurentio et Ippolyto Martiribus.

According to this legend, San Lorenzo was captured by Emperor Valeriano in the Catacombs of San Callisto in the year 258. He managed to escape martyrdom and was held captive by the centurion Ippolito in the basement of his palace on Via Urbana. Here he met Lucillo, a blind man whom he baptized with the water from an underground spring. Lucillo immediately regained his sight. Ippolito was so impressed that he also had himself baptized. Lorenzo, however, would be burned alive on August 10 of that year. Ippolito would eventually die as a forced laborer in the mines in Sardinia.

In the Middle Ages, an oratory was built over the cellars where the saint had been imprisoned. Later, the Spanish Cardinal Juan Alvarez De Toledo had a church built there. In 1630 Pope Urban VIII had the architect Domenico Castelli enlarge this church.

When metro line A was constructed, it was unfortunately necessary to close the stairs that led from the basement to the rooms of Ippolito himself.

What to see

  • The famous architect Carlo Fontana is buried inside the church.
  • Giovan Battista Speranza painted “Baptism of Sant’Ippolito” above the altar. Along the side walls, two more works by Speranza can be seen, namely “The Martyrdom of San Lorenzo” and “San Lorenzo Giving Bread to the Poor”.
  • A chapel has been created into the left wall of the church. It is graced with a painting called “Martyrdom of the Saints Giovanni and Paolo”, by an unknown artist.
  • The grate on which the saint is said to have been burned is carved into the floor of the church.
  • “Madonna with the Saints Margherita en Elisabetta d’Ungheria” is a 17th century painting by a master of the Bolognese school.
  • The bust in the sacristy represents Pope Urban VIII and was made by Bernini or one of his pupils.
  • Beneath the church the circular cell where Lorenzo was held prisoner can be visited. The well is graced by a 17th century bas-relief, depicting Lorenzo baptizing Ippolito. On the archway leading to this cell, a late 16th century bas-relief depicts the Savior rising from his sarcophagus.

Via Urbana, 50 – 00184 Rome