Milan – The Basilica of Saint Lorenzo Maggiore

The Palatine Early Christians Basilica

>>Milan Golf District

The Basilica of San Lorenzo in Milan is a religious building, probably built between the end of the 4th century and the beginning of the 5th century. Scholars agree that it was commissioned by the emperor and that it was financially expensive.

The Basilica, built on an artificial hill, consists of a central building delimited by four towers, and, around it, three small “satellite” buildings with an octagonal floor plan. One would enter through a quadriportico, preceded by a colonnaded entrance. The main building features a square hall inscribed in a tetraconch with four apses, one on each side. Inside, one can find the ambulatory and an upper loggia that was used as a women’s gallery.

Around the central space, there’s a Greek cross chapel, later dedicated to St. Hippolytus, and on the left, one can access the atrium, now the chapel of St. Aquilinus, while on the right, one can access the chapel of St. Sixtus. The Basilica of San Lorenzo has undergone various reconstruction and expansion interventions over the centuries.

In the 10th century, the dome with ductile pipes was rebuilt, while in the 12th and 13th centuries, the stone pillars on which it rests were reconstructed and the columns from the center of the church to the apses were replaced with octagonal pillars. The southeast tower was rebuilt and enlarged, the external lantern was built, and rampant arches were added to the towers, whose remains are still visible.

In its reconstruction of 1573-1619, following the collapse of the dome, the architect Martino Bassi strengthened the church’s structures: reinforcing the four sets of pillars supporting the dome, rebuilding the octagonal pillars of the north side following the medieval ones on the south side and replacing those of the east-west axis with circular columns to suggest a longitudinal development of the Basilica, according to the dictates of the Council of Trent. The matroneum vaults and the semi-cupolas of the arches were redone, and the reinforced corner pillars were connected by lugs that reduced the central part of the building to an irregular octagon that became regular at the top, allowing the square plan of the building to be linked to the octagonal dome.

In 1894, the facade was built based on the design of engineer Cesare Nava, consisting of three arches interspersed with Ionic pilasters, in a cement similar to stone, creating an obstacle to the view of the imposing basilical complex behind it. In 1934, on the occasion of the Bimillennium of Augustus, the old houses in front of the Basilica were demolished, allowing the colonnade to visually reconnect with the Basilica of San Lorenzo.

During World War II, the Basilica and the houses at the back were damaged, but important restoration work was carried out later. Finally, on the occasion of the Jubilee of 2000, the external fa├žades of the Basilica were cleaned and the plaster restored, the tram line was moved, and the square was reinstated.