According to tradition, Rotonda di San Lorenzo was built at the behest of Matilda di Canossa, as an evocation of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, connected to the relic of the Blood of Christ found centuries earlier in Mantua and now preserved in the nearby crypt of the Basilica of Sant’Andrea.
On the other hand, the positioning of the structure 1.5 meters below the level of Piazza delle Erbe and the existence of Roman vestiges dated to the 4th century, may suggest that the church was built earlier. The year 1083, which appears on the plaster of the building, may indicate the construction date of the church or a later date when it was renovated.
Over the centuries, the church underwent radical transformations. At one point, the project for the renovation of the structure was entrusted to the architect Leon Battista Alberti. Later, it was Giulio Romano who worked on the building.
The church was closed for worship in 1579, at the behest of Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga. Deconsecrated, the structure decayed quickly. It first became a warehouse and then, once uncovered, a circular courtyard for private use.
In 1908, the building was expropriated and its demolition was authorized. During the works, the church was freed from the buildings around it, and re-emerged almost entirely. The Municipality changed its plan, and around 1911 the dome was reconstructed. In 1926, the church was re-consecrated, reopened for worship, and handed over to the Dominican Fraternity which assumed the burden of its restoration and conservation.
The staircase that allows access to the church was built in March 1939 and inaugurated on April 21, 1940.
ART AND ARCHITECTURE
The church, according to Lombard tradition, is built in bricks. A notable example of Romanesque style, the church has a central plan, completed by a semicircular apse, characterized by a matroneum (loggia for women), which preserves fragments of frescoes from the 11th-12th centuries.
Another fresco fragment in the apse, portraying the Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence, dates back to the 15th century.
HOW TO GET THERE
Rotonda di San Lorenzo is located about 1 kilometers away from the Mantua railway station. The closest bus stop, Concordia, is near the church, on the bus Line CC.