Next to the Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls completes the range of four major (or papal) basilicas of Rome. Just like the Saint Peter’s Basilica was built on the martyrdom and burial site of Saint Peter, the Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls (full name, the Papal Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls) was built on top of the tomb of Saint Paul. The name of the edifice comes from the fact the church was erected outside the Aurelian Walls which, in antiquity, used to surround virtually the entire Rome.

It was Emperor Constantine the one who commissioned the construction of the basilica on the site where the apostle’s followers had built a memorial monument. In all likelihood, the Constantinian foundation was less ample than the current basilica. Indeed, in the course of history, the original edifice was extended, modified and enriched with artistic acquisitions, but most of the historical patrimony was lost to the unfortunate events occurring in the course of time, such as the 9th century Saracean incursions and the fatal fire in 1823. It was after the fire that the basilica was almost completely rebuilt, with the preservation of the ancient and medieval surviving elements.

Thus, the 1285 baldachin executed by Arnolfo di Cambio survived the fire, just like the triumphal arch and its decorative mosaics. Another medieval treasure refers to the cloister built by Pietro Vassalletto between 1205 and 1241, flanked by rows of double columns of which some are decorated with mosaics.

The two elegant rows of slender columns inside the basilica which peg out the sides of the nave have been added in the 19th century. Another addition following the fire refers to the stuccoed ceiling. Despite the fact the basilica does not gather a wealth of masterpieces, it remains one of the most scenically decorated churches in Rome, yielding an elegance-filled air unparalleled by other places of worship. It is, at the same time, the second largest of all religious edifices in the capital of Italy, only after the overpowering Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican.

Basilica of Saint Paul outside the Walls (Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura)
186, Via Ostiense, 00146, Rome, Italy
0039 06 45434185
0039 06 45434185
[email protected]