Considered to be one of Rome’s four most important papal Basilicas, Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura, known in English as the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, is the second largest Church in Rome and the third largest Church in the whole world. This Basilica was edified during the IV century under the commission of Constantine on the exact same site where St. Paul was buried in 67 AD and, since then, it underwent many incidents and accidents like being part of a huge fire in 1823 that partially destroyed it.
Let’s find out something more about the suggestive Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls and why you should add it to your itinerary when visiting Rome!
The Origins and Evolution of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
As previously briefly mentioned, the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls was created under the commission of Emperor Constantine I during the IV century and it was first consecrated by Pope Sylvester. Since then, it underwent many restorations and enlargement works, some were under commission and some others were necessary due to natural causes that caused the partial destruction or damage of the Church, like the earthquake that took place on April 29th 801. One of the most notable unfortunate events that happened to this Church was its destruction due to a fire in 1823, more precisely on July 15th. The Basilica we see today is a XIX century reconstruction but, fortunately, many parts and relics of the original Church are still intact to this day. Some of these are the triumphal arch that dates back to the V century and the Tabernacle made of marble located over the altar, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1285.
An Architectural Marvel
One of the most interesting aspects about the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is that it was erected in the same place where Paul the Apostle was buried and where his followers had a shrine built in his honor. Nowadays, Saint Paul’s tomb is located near the confessio.
As previously mentioned, a few parts of the original Church managed to stay intact after the fire in 1823: the Tabernacle, the Cloister, and the Triumphal Arch, which make for the most beautiful parts of this Church. The cloister in particular was created between 1220 and 1241 and it managed to remain undamaged after the fire.
The Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls was declared a national monument a little after its reopening in 1840.
Inside the Basilica: A Visual Feast of Mosaics and Marble Columns
Featuring amazing marble columns and interesting mosaics, the few parts that managed to survive the fire in 1823 create a magnificent setting.
The mosaics that this Church houses are mostly from the XII and XIII centuries, just like the big chandelier. Another interesting aspect of this Church is that its walls depict the portraits of all of the former popes and one of the current pope, Pope Francis, displayed under a ray of sunlight.
Practical Guide: Opening Times and Tips for Visiting
The Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is unfortunately not located in the city center but its cultural value makes it truly worth it to take the effort to see it. The Church is open every day from 07:00 AM to 06:30 PM but the opening times may vary due to festive days. Because of this, we always recommend checking out the opening times in advance.
Visiting the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is truly a must if you appreciate art and architecture with historical value. If you want to get to know more about the city of Rome, we suggest you check out our other blogs.