Roaming Rome

San Lorenzo fuori le Mura - 1854

Topographical drawing of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura

San Lorenzo fuori le Mura: interior view, 1854
Watercolour and ink
Artist: George Aitchison
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections 


Medieval architects often reused Roman architectural ruins and fragments in new Romanesque structures. San Lorenzo fuori le Mura is a pilgrimage church built with numerous ancient fragments. Unlike many of Rome's other and more well-known basilicas, such as St Peter's and St John Lateran, San Lorenzo has kept its original Romanesque form.

In the 19th century, artists, architects and scholars became interested in style's colourful, creative forms. This drawing by the Victorian architect George Aitchison shows a group of five travel-weary pilgrims arriving at the basilica. Before they have even removed their bags, the pilgrims kneel down to pray towards the altar. Aitchison captures the soft daylight filtering in through the clerestory windows of the nave and uses a light white wash to give the impression of bright sunlight. Instead of capturing architectural space alone, the inclusion of worshippers and daylight attempts to evoke the spirit of a working chapel.

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