San Sebastiano fuori le mura

Rome, Italy

San Sebastiano fuori le mura (Saint Sebastian outside the walls) was built originally in the first half of the 4th century. The basilica is dedicated to St. Sebastian, a popular Roman martyr of the 3rd century. 'Fuori le mura' refers to the fact that the church is built outside the Aurelian Walls, and is used to differentiate the basilica from the church of San Sebastiano al Palatino on the Palatine Hill.

The church is built above one of Rome's famous catacombs or underground cemeteries, and in fact the word 'catacomb' comes from this site. According to the founding tradition, in 258, during the Valerian persecutions, the catacombs were temporarily used as place of sepulture of two other saints martyred in Rome, Peter and Paul, whose remains were later transferred to the two basilicas carrying their names: whence the original dedication of the church, Basilica Apostolorum ('Basilica of the Apostles'). The dedication to Sebastian dates to the 9th century.

Sebastian's remains were moved here around 350. They were transferred to St. Peter's in 826, fearing a Saracen assault: the latter, in fact, materialized, and the church was destroyed. The building was refounded under Pope Nicholas I (858–867), while the martyr's altar was reconsecrated by Honorius III (1216–1227), by request of the Cistercians, who had received the place. In the 13th century the arcade of the triple nave was walled in.

The current edifice is largely a 17th-century construction, commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1609 from Flaminio Ponzio and, after Ponzio's death in 1613, entrusted to Giovanni Vasanzio, who completed it.

The statue of St Sebastian at the altar in the first chapel on the left is by Giuseppe Giorgetti. The Chapel of Relics, located directly across the nave, houses a stone allegedly imprinted with the footprints of Jesus related to the episode of 'Quo vadis?' in the apocryphal Acts of Peter; and one of the arrows which struck St Sebastian together with part of the column to which he was tied during the martyrdom. Noteworthy is the Albani Chapel (built 1716) and designed by Carlo Maratta, Alessandro Specchi, Filippo Barigioni and Carlo Fontana; commissioned by Pope Clement XI; and dedicated to Pope Fabian. Fabian had been Bishop of Rome during the persecution of Decius. Flanking the altar, busts of Saints Peter and Paul by Nicolò Cordier recall the first dedication of the basilica.

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Founded: 4th century AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Ryan Attard (3 months ago)
Thankfully not so much of a tourist destination, so there was plenty of time for prayer while on pilgrimage.
Joseph Benny (7 months ago)
If u r searching for a visit of Rome off the usual attractions, this is a must go to. One of the first catacombs (8 euro per head) which houses the remains of st Sebastian and a wonderfully preserved Roman necropolis. It also has the last work of Bernini titled Salvatore mundi and also the famous quo Vadis footprints of Christ. From colosseum, this place is a 15 mins bus ride (118) One of the oldest catacombs and an Awesome place to visit. Blessed.
Jiana Sayegh (7 months ago)
Very nice chapel with the opportunity to visit the catacombs.
David Lown (9 months ago)
The church is home to two beautiful 17th century sculptures, one of Christ by that genius of the Baroque, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and the other of St Sebastian by a much less well-known sculptor, Giuseppe Giorgetti.
Rudi Hesse (2 years ago)
This church is really hard to reach, use bus 118, but it is most important to see one of the most beautiful sculptures of Bernini that is his last: the saviour of the world, il salvatore del mondo. Do not walk the via appia antica, where it is used by cars. It is extremely dangerous. To go back to Rome use the bus station Appia Pignatelli/Appia Antica of the 118...
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