Columns of St. Lawrence

Corso di Porta Ticinese, 22-36. (Open Map)


It is quite an experience to find a corner of ancient Rome in Milan and there is a certain space in the city where you can take a trip back in time. Just beyond Porta Ticinese, Roman columns line up in front of the of the Basilica di San Lorenzo and is one of the most striking and notable sights in the city.
We find ourselves in the heart of the hamlet that the Milanese called the “Square of the Citizens” (La Vetra dei Cittadini).
Not to be forgotten is the fact that the city in the IV and V century AD was the capital of the Roman Empire.
The ancient Milan was designed as the Roman military camps with two principal thoroughfares (called “cardum” and “decumanum”) that crossed in the centre of the city, the Forum, that today coincides with Piazza San Sepolcro. During this historical period Milan, the ancient Mediolanum, was enriched with Herculean baths, the circus, the Massimian walls and an imperial mausoleum. In 313 AD Emperor Constantine promulgated in Milan the edict that enabled the Christians to profess freely the Christian religion. The historical figures of Bishop Ambrose and Emperor Theodosius 1st transformed the city in the most important centre of the Western Christianity.
The 16 marble columns, with Corinthian capitals, represent one of the most important Roman finds in Milan, along with the remains of the amphitheatre, the theatre, the “herculean” baths and a few other traces of the imperial city.
The colonnade was erected in the late-ancient period (probably in the 5th century) to create a scenic perspective of the atrium in front of the church. It was constructed out of columns, bases, capitals and fragments of much older architraves, recovered from an unknown public building that dated back to the second half of the 2nd century.Although very different , of course, from the 4th century when it was the main building at the centre of the map of the Western Roman Empire, the Basilica di San Lorenzo is still today rather faithful to its paleochristian architectural origins which the reconstruction, carried out between 1573 and 1619 according Martino Bassi’s project, preserved.
The place is so unusual that it has become a location appreciated for cinematographic filming. Just a short distance from the arches of Porta Ticinese, there are many fashion shops and bars for young people. Beside the columns, there are the tram tracks and the passing trams almost invite you to jump on and take a touristic ride around the city on one of its most characteristic modes of transport.The columns represent an emotional significance for some Milanese as they are a visible testament to ancient “Mediolanum” (as Milan was once named) that resisted the invasion of the Goths and then the bombardments during the last world war. On the edge of the colonnade, there is an inscription of the Emperor Lucio Vero from the year 167 and San Carlo Borromeo had the shrines located here during the time of the plague.
Of notable interest is the Basilica di San Lorenzo in the background. Its style is Romanic-Renaissance and its chapels and towers exhibit various influences.
The space between the columns and the church, up until 1935, was occupied by old houses.