Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

Rome, Italy

The Papal Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls (Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura), is one of Rome's four ancient major basilicas. The Basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over the burial place of St. Paul, where it was said that, after the Apostle's execution, his followers erected a memorial, called a cella memoriae.

In 386, Emperor Theodosius I began erecting a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept; the work including the mosaics was not completed until Leo I's pontificate (440–461). Under Pope St. Gregory the Great (590–604) the Basilica was extensively modified. The pavement was raised to place the altar directly over St. Paul's tomb. A confession permitted access to the Apostle's sepulcher.

As it lay outside the Aurelian Walls, the Basilica was damaged in the 9th century during a Saracen raid. Consequently, Pope John VIII (872–82) fortified the Basilica, the monastery, and the dwellings of the peasantry, forming the town of Joannispolis. It existed until 1348, when an earthquake totally destroyed it.

The graceful cloister of the monastery was erected between 1220 and 1241.

On 15 July 1823, a negligent workman repairing the lead of the roof, started a fire that led to the near total destruction of this basilica, which, alone among all the churches of Rome, had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. It was re-opened in 1840, and reconsecrated in 1855 with the presence of Pope Pius IX and fifty cardinals. The complete decoration and reconstruction, in charge of Luigi Poletti, took longer, however, and many countries made their contributions. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, the Emperor of Russia the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The work on the principal façade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian Government, which declared the church a national monument.

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Address

Via Ostiense, Rome, Italy
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Details

Founded: 386 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Chad Miller (19 months ago)
This is a must stop any time we come to Rome. Fortunately this time they didn't have the courtyard polluted with a modern "art" display like they did last time. The columns, mosaics, and overall majesty of this Basilica is overwhelming, but to get to pray at St. Paul's tomb? To behold the chain which held him captive? It's absolutely essential to visit, and it's almost always very low in attendance compared to the other Basilicas in Rome.
Luca Scia (19 months ago)
This church is one of the biggest and the oldest in Rome. It was built far from the original Roman Walls. What I like about this church is the legend behind that. When you go inside you will see each pope from the first one to the latest one. If you pay attention you can see that there are some circles without faces. According to the legend when all the circles will be filled with a pope face there will be the apocalypse!
Genet Bacha (19 months ago)
Coming from the direction of Vatican, one has to go around the compound to get to the entrance... in that tall brick wall I didn't expect that spectacular place, the garden is small for the area but amazing, calming, peaceful and just the begining to the soul captivating interior with so much more history that would make you reach for the tissues before the camera button. AMAZING!!!❤❤❤
Joshua Brothers (20 months ago)
One of the five largest churches in the world doesn't get frequented much by tourists--but being inside is jaw droppingly beautiful. I go almost every time I am in Rome. Just under a km from the San Paolo stop on the Metro. The courtyard houses an enormous statue of Paul, and the interior is decorated with gargantuan Byzantine murals. If you get hungry, just across the way from the metro stop is the best kebab shop in Rome, so stop and get something to munch on your way back.
Jose Ferri (20 months ago)
Beautiful. Stunning! It is one of the 4 Papal Basilicas. It is away from the tourist center of the city; for that it is more difficult to get to and it is not full of people like St Peter's Basilica. However, if you have the chance to go, GO!!! It is so beautiful, its garden and in the inside is so huge and impressive... A MUST GO!
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Hagios Demetrios

The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.

The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.

The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.

The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.

Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.

Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.