The Basilica of Saint Sebastian outside the Walls in Rome is, as the name suggests, located outside the Aurelian Walls. It is also known as the Basilica of Saint Sebastian at the Catacombs, due to its location above the catacombs of Saint Sebastian. The basilica is one of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome, by force of its age and of the relics it shelters.

The way it stands out today, the basilica was largely delineated in the early 17th century. The design was conceived by Flaminio Ponzio in 1609, but the works were completed under the supervision of Giovanni Vasanzio, some five years later. It was Scipione Borghese, the founder of the splendid Borghese Gallery, who commissioned the construction of the new basilica.

However, the original place of worship was built in the 4th century. It was initially dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, given it used to shelter the tombs of the two apostles (which is why its first name was the Basilica of the Apostles). It was only after the moving of the relics of Saint Sebastian (sanctified by the Catholic Church as a result of his martyrdom) to the basilica, in 350, that the church was rededicated (in the 9th century). The tomb of the saint is located in the altar in the first chapel on the left of the church, and it was built either by Antonio Giorgetti or by his brother, Giuseppe Giorgetti, in the 17th century. The chapel, which bears the name of the saint, was constructed with the financial support of Francesco Barberini.

Other notable chapels inside the basilica are the Chapel of Saint Fabiano (the construction of which was commissioned by Pope Clement XI and supervised by Carlo Fontana, between 1706 and 1712) and the Chapel of the Crucifix (or the Ancient Sacristy, decorated by Marco Tullio Fontana in the first half of the 18th century). But the most prized of all is the Chapel of the Relics. This one was built in 1625 with the financial support of Massimiliano I, Duke of Bavaria, and it contains a wealth of relics: body parts (fingers, teeth, heads, arms) of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Andrew, Saint Fabian, Saint Callistus, Saint Rocco, Saint Nereus and Saint Achilleus, Saint Avenisto and Valentino. The mortal remains are complemented by several thorns of the crown of Jesus, the stone of “Quo Vadis, Domine”, a fragment of the column on which Saint Sebastian was martyred (as well as the arrow which was used in the martyrdom episode).

The basilica also shelters the last sculptural work of the glorified Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Il Salvator Mundi, a marble bust placed inside the niche of the Baptismal Font.

The guided tours of the basilica and of the catacombs are available in several languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish and German), and for guided group tours, reservations are required.

Basilica of Saint Sebastian outside the Walls (La Basilica di San Sebastiano fuori le Mura)
136, Via Appia Antica, 00179, Rome, Italy
0039 06 7850350
0039 06 7843745
[email protected]