Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls  

Piazzale di San Paolo, 1 

 

Transport: 

Metro: Line B (Get off at Basilica San Paolo) 

Bus: 23 (Pincherle-Parravano – Get off at Ostiense – LGT S. Paolo) 

     271 (S. Giuliano/S. Paolo – Get off at S. Paolo) 

Taxi: A taxi from Via del Corso may cost about 12 euros.  

 

Hours: 

Open daily from 7:00 to 18:30. Free entrance. 

 

The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls is located about 7 kilometers from the Via del Corso in downtown Rome. It is the second largest church in Rome after the Vatican. It is situated on the burial site of Saint Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, who died in Rome in 67 AD. The original church was built by Constantine the Great over the burial place of St. Paul, where his followers had built a memorial. However there was a disastrous fire in 1823 that destroyed much of the old church. A new church was then built, following the plan of the old church and this has taken about a century. The plan is a classic basilica of one central nave and two aisles flanking either side. The new church measures 132 meters long, 65 meters wide and 30 meters high. There are few people who visit it since it is a bit away from the center of Rome, but this adds pleasure to the people who visit it now because the church can be enjoyed in a quiet way. It is one of the most magnificent churches in the world. 

There is a majestic portico in front of the façade and this was the work of Guglielmo Calderini between 1890 and 1928. There are a total of 150 columns in this portico. Multi-color marbles decorate the portico’s side walls and there are medallions that show the symbols of the four Evangelists. In the center of the quadrangular portico is a massive statue of St. Paul by Giuseppe Obici. He stands in front of his church with a sword in one hand and a book in the other. The sword represents the manner of his death and the book, the New Testament containing his letters to young Christian churches. 

The central nave has 40 columns of Baveno granite with white Carrara marble Corinthian capitals. Above is an area like a frieze that has papal portraits and murals depicting scenes from the life of St. Paul, between windows. There are gold coffered ceilings with the coat of arms of the Popes. The walls of the two outer naves have very large niches with the statues of ten Apostles. The statues of St. Peter and St. Paul are on pedestals in the central nave. The floor of the naves looks like a carpet of precious marbles. The tomb of St. Paul is below the present main altar and is protected with a metal grate. Pilgrims pray here to remember St. Paul. There is a Gothic Altar Canopy above the papal altar, where only the Pope can celebrate Mass. The canopy was the work of the artist Arnolfo di Cambio. The corner niches of this canopy have statues of Saints Peter, Paul, Benedict and Timothy. 

The cloister is the part of the old monastery that survived the fire of 1823. The garden is rectangular. On each side there is a low podium on which ruses a series of small double columns, four to each span, supporting small rounded arches that support a pediment decorated with mosaics. The sides of the cloister are full of archaeological remains of the old church. There is a sarcophagus from the 3rd century that was used as the tomb of Pierleoni in the 12th century. 

There is a very good gift store that is run by the Benedictines where one can buy books, souvenirs, rosaries, crosses and other religious items, and many of these are very artistic. This is probably the best store in Rome selling religious items.

 

 

  The quadrangular portico has a massive statue of St. Paul by Giuseppe Obici.

 

A close-up of the statue of St. Paul.

 

There are colored marbles that decorate the walls of the portico.

 

The central nave.

 

The gold coffered ceiling with the Papal coat of arms.

 

 

The Gothic Altar Canopy.

 

At the end one can see the apse vault.

 

 

The cloister.

 

 

Another view of the cloister.

 

On the sides of the cloister there are archaeological remains of churches.

 

A 3rd century sarcophagus used in the 12th century as the tomb of Pierleoni.

 

This is the Sarcophagus of the Two Testaments.