Sunday, July 2, 2017

Feast of St. Justin

I've been trying, as much as possible, to go to the tomb of the saints on their Feast day.  So, on June 1 - the Feast of St. Justin - I went to the church of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls.  Here, beneath the altar in an accessible crypt under the chancel, is located the tomb of St. Lawrence.  Relics of St. Stephen and St. Justin Martyr are also enshrined here.  An altar has been built on the west side of the tomb, which is surrounded by a grate. 

Near the tomb, below the steps leading up to the chancel, is a room housing some 6th-century ruins that were excavated in 1947-49. These include part of the apse and the Shrine of the Unknown Martyr, which early pilgrims visited after the tomb of St. Lawrence. In the 9th century it was expanded into an underground chapel with an apse. The shrine is decorated with frescoes that probably date from the time of Pope John VII (705-07), depicting Maria Regina surrounded by saints holding up crowns. More frescoes were added in the 9th century, depicting the Virgin and Child Enthroned accompanied by angels, St. Lawrence, St. Andrew, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Catherine. 

 The side aisles of the basilica have been uncovered down to original floor level (2.15m lower than the nave) and can be entered via stairs at the front of the nave aisles. The 6th-century aisles provide access to the inner narthex of the same date, which now houses the Chapel of Pope Pius IX and is decorated with 19th-century mosaics. The pope's preserved body is on display against the east wall. On the opposite wall, against the structure housing the tomb of St. Lawrence, is the "Stone of St. Lawrence," a marble slab with a large stain. According to tradition, Lawrence's body was laid on this stone after his execution, staining it with blood.

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