Monday, February 24, 2014

Bascilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

February 23, 2014

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Wall, whose origins go back to the time of Constantine, is Rome's fourth great patriarchal church.  It was built consecrated in the year 324 AD. It was erected over the tomb of St. Paul.  The basilica fell victim to fire in 1823 but was subsequently rebuilt.  St. Peter's Basilica in the only larger church in Rome.   From the inside the windows appear to be stained glass but in reality are made of translucent alabaster.  The interior is a forest of single-file columns and mosaic tiles which are portraits of the various popes.  It is one of the most streamlined and elegantly decorated churches in Rome.  Perhaps it's most important treasure is a 12th century candelabrum designed by Vassalletto, who was also responsible for the remarkable columns.

As it's name implies, the Basilica of San Paolo Fuori Le Mura is located outside of what were the walls of the ancient city of Rome, and like the Basilica of St. Peter built over the burial site of Peter located at the Vatican, is supposedly built over the burial site of the martyred Saint Paul.  Because it is located outside the protective walls of Rome, it suffered severe damage over the centuries by invaders.  It has been rebuilt and enlarged many times over the centuries.

According to tradition, Paul's body was buried two miles away from the place of his martyrdom, in the sepulchral area along the Ostiense Way, which was owned by a Christian woman named Lucina.  During the 4th century, Paul's remains, excluding the head, were moved into a sarcophagus. According to church tradition the head rests at the Lateran.   Paul's tomb is below a marble tombstone in the Basilica's crypt below the altar.   (On December 2006, it was announced that Vatican archaeologists had confirmed the presence of a white marble sarcophagus beneath the altar, perhaps containing the remains of the Apostle.)

 On our way home from attending church in Ostia, we drove by the church and decided to look inside.  It is a huge, beautiful structure.  While we were there, a special ceremony was being held and people had come to worship St. Paul and were singing songs in a small area that has been created in front of the alter where it is possible to see part of the sarcophagus.

Entry to Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

Paul holding sword

Peter holding keys

Statue of Peter inside Basilica

Younger version of Saint Paul

Saint Paul

12th Century Candelabrum

Paul on the road to Damascus

Wooden statue of Paul - people would scrap pieces of the wood off under their fingernails until the statue was moved and protected

Ruins of original church built here before the basilica was built

Uncovered portion of floor that leads to sarcophagus

Chains that kept Paul a prisoner in Rome

Sarcophagus behind grill

1 comment:

  1. I remember very well, touring that bascilica on a P-day back in 1980. Isn't it amazing how all one has to do is walk around a corner and there is something beautiful to see at every turn? VIVA ITALIA!!! Thanks for sharing these photos. Ah ... the bellissimi memories!!!