San Lorenzo Maggiore, Milan

Dating from the 4th century AD, the Chiesa di San Lorenzo Maggiore is the oldest church in Milan. With ancient architecture that might seem more at home in Ravenna, San Lorenzo recalls the days when Milan was the capital of the Western Roman Empire.


History of San Lorenzo Maggiore

Founded in the 4th century, San Lorenzo Maggiore was at the time one of the largest buildings in the west. The foundations were made of enormous blocks taken from other Roman sites and the interior was decorated with marble along the lower half and mosaics up higher.

The church was rebuilt in the 11th century and heavily renovated in the 16th century. The church was restored in the 1930s.

What to See at San Lorenzo Maggiore

Sixteen ancient Roman columns line the front of the church, which retains its original octagonal floor plan. Also outside the church is a copy of a statue of Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor. The great dome, the highest in Milan, is a 16th-century addition.

The Cappella di Sant'Aquilino (Chapel of St. Aquilinus) is the highlight of the interior, where fourth-century Byzantine mosaics (one depicting a beardless Christ) can be seen. A mosaic in the left apse has crumbled away, revealing the artist's drawings beneath.

A sarcophagus in the chapel is said to hold the remains of Galla Placidia, sister of Honorius, last emperor of Rome and wife of Ataulf, king of the Visigoths. Her legacy lives on in several Italian cities: her mausoleum is one of the mosaic masterpieces of Ravenna, yet it is most likely she is buried in Rome where she died.

Even earlier history can be seen by following the stairs from behind the altar to a crypt-like room that contains the original foundations, materials for which were taken from a Roman amphitheater.

Quick Facts on San Lorenzo Maggiore

Site Information
Names:San Lorenzo Maggiore
Dedication: St. Lawrence
Dates:4th C
Status: active
Visitor and Contact Information
Coordinates:45.458178° N, 9.181877° E
Address:39 Corso di Porta Ticinese
Milan, Italy
Hours:Mon-Sat 8am-12:30pm and 2-6:30pm
Sun 10:30-11:15am and 3-5:30pm
Lodging:View hotels near San Lorenzo Maggiore
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours and prices can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.


  1. Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore -
  2. Rough Guide Italy, p. 191.
  3. Fodor's Italy 2005

More Information

© Ciccio Pizzettaro
© Andy Ciordia
© Michiel Harmsen
© Michiel Harmsen
© Michiel Harmsen

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