Original frescoes and legends Church of San Lorenzo in Cave


A church of contradictions, simple and mystical, where one perceives deep religiosity and the work of so many humble people who have realized it.

Why in contradiction? For a column upside down, because one nave is Romanesque and the other is Gothic because the fresco of the Last Supper of Jesus has a round table and because a fresco of the 1600s has a pietà in which Jesus is supported by his father, God instead of the Madonna.

The church is on a cliff that once was outside of Cave village, and a document from 988 DC tells of the presence of the Benedictine monks of Subiaco. The monks chose this place perhaps because of the presence of some catacombs and because it was already known by Christians. The original catacombs are still to be visited and are the destination of a particular pilgrimage.

A subsequent document of 998 confirms the monks’ presence and reports of the church dedicated to San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo was very beloved at the time because he had been the deacon of Pope San Sixtus II, loved and killed during the Emperor Valerian’s persecution. San Lorenzo died in 258 in Rome where, according to the legend, he was martyred and put to death on a burning grating.

These are the motives of choosing the name of the small monastery by the monks that, during its over one thousand years of history, has undergone a series of transformations. Today there is a small church inside which reveals all the traces of the story that crossed it.

The church, in fact, was founded as a single space to which later two aisles were added. The two aisles have been made in different ages and in fact one has a Romanesque style and the other has a Gothic style.

It is understood that the church was made by unique workforce of unskilled workers who reused material derived from ancient Roman villas and buildings in the area. Why were there not experienced masters? Because each column is different and one of the columns that divides the central nave from the lateral side is upside down.

These ‘defects’, however, are the beauty and poetry of San Lorenzo which is a jewel of medieval art.

The church is then enriched with truly original frescoes that survived the various changes. The first represents the last supper where the table in which Jesus is sitting with the apostles is circular and not rectangular as in all other paintings in the world. The round table that seems to anticipate all the chivalrous future stories.

L’ultima particolarità della chiesa riguarda il ritrovamento di molte ossa di bambino nella cripta accanto alla immagine dell’affresco di San Nicola di Bari, protettore dei bambini. Qui c’era infatti l’usanza di portare i bambini per le benedizioni e per invocare la protezione del santo e San Lorenzo era meta di molti pellegrinaggi.

San Lorenzo viene festeggiato il 10 agosto a Cave con una processione che parte da questa chiesa e torna nella collegiata dove viene custodita la statua lignea del Santo con la sua macchina da processione.

Another fresco of about 1600 from a very original cross section of Christ’s passion. The body of Jesus is represented in the arms of his father St. Joseph, who instead had disappeared in the stories and in the religious images of his son’s passion.

The last peculiarity of the church is the finding of many baby bones in the crypt next to the image of the fresco of St. Nicholas of Bari, the protector of children. Here it was the custom to bring the children to the blessings and to invoke the protection of the saint, and San Lorenzo was the destination of many pilgrimages.

San Lorenzo is celebrated on August 10 at Cave with a procession leaving this church and returning to the collegiate church where the wooden statue of the saint is preserved with its procession carriage.