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Basilica of St. Paul outside the walls

Rome - St Paul outside the walls

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls belongs to the papal basilicas in Rome. It is one of the four most important basilicas in Rome along with Saint Peter’s Basilica, the papal Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran and the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. The first Basilica was built in 314 by the emperor Constantine the Great. It was built on the same place where Saint Paul was buried, his grave now situated five meters under the altar. It was the biggest Christian monument in the world up until Saint Peter’s Basilica was built.

Things to see

During Theodosius the Great’s reign, pagans temples were banned so the emperor renovated the basilica by building five naves, getting his inspiration from another ancient basilica located on Trajan’s Forum.

In 1823, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was almost entirely destroyed by fire. The reconstruction of the basilica was ordered by Pope Leo XII and he gave this task to the architect Pasquale Belli. The interior was decorated by Poletti and the new basilica was rebuilt according to the original plans; only the façade was new.

Miraculously, the cloister from the 13th century survived the fire and it is still possible to admire its beautiful columns sculpted from different colored marbles. Some 36 frescoes represent the events of Saint Paul’s life, as well as pieces from the former basilica and a few sarcophagi, can all be found inside the basilica. In the middle of the courtyard, a marble statue of Saint Paul stands, created by the sculptor Giuseppe Obici in 1850. Pilgrimages to the Basilica have been organized since the first Holy Year of 1300.

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls is the property of the Holy See and it has been listed among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.