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Abbazia di San Paolo fuori le Mura
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Full Day Tour: Vatican Museums, St. Peter's and the Most Important Basilicas of...
Ranked #14 of 1,514 things to do in Rome
Certificate of Excellence
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Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: At the beginning of the 4th century, with the end of the persecutions and the promulgation of the Edicts of Tolerance in favour of Christianity, Emperor Constantine ordered the excavation of the cella memoriae, the place where Christians venerated the memory of Saint Paul the Apostle, beheaded under Nero around 65-67 A.D. Above his grave, located along the Ostiense Way, about two kilometers outside the Aurelian Walls surrounding Rome, Constantine built a Basilica which was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324. Between 384 and 395 the Basilica, under the emperors Theodosius, Valentinian II and Arcadius, was restored and enlarged according to an extensive project consisting of five naves opening out into an atrium (quadriportico), or courtyard with four rows of columns. Throughout the centuries the Basilica would not cease to be embellished and enhanced by the Popes. For example, the massive defensive wall was built to protect against invasions at the end of the ninth century, while the bell tower and the magnificent Byzantine door were constructed in the eleventh century. Other important additions include Pietro Cavallini’s mosaics in the facade, the beautiful Vassalletto family’s cloister, Arnolfo di Cambio’s celebrated Gothic baldachin and the Candelabrum for the Paschal candle attributed to Nicola d’Angelo and Pietro Vassalletto of the thirteenth century. This historical period represents the golden age of what had been the biggest Basilica of Rome, until the consecration of the new Basilica of St. Peter in 1626. This sacred place of Christian pilgrimage was well-known for its artistic works. On the night of July 15, 1823, a fire destroyed this unique testimony to the Paleo-Christian, Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Basilica was reconstructed identically to what it had been before, utilizing all the elements which had survived the fire. In 1840 Pope Gregory XVI consecrated the Altar of the Confession and the Transept. Other embellishments followed the reconstruction. In 1928 the portico with 150 columns was added. Contemporary work in the Basilica has uncovered the tomb of the Apostle, while other important and beneficial works are carried out, as in the past, thanks to the generosity of Christians from all over the world. In the fifth century under the Pontificate of Leo the Great, the Basilica became the home of a long series of medallions which would to this day depict all the popes throughout history. This testifies, in an extraordinary way, to “the very great, the very ancient and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul” (Saint Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3, 3,2). Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls constitutes an extra-territorial complex (Motu Proprio by Pope Benedict XVI, 30 May 2005), administered by an Archpriest. In addition to the Papal Basilica, the entire complex includes a very ancient Benedictine Abbey, restored by Odon of Cluny in 936. This Abbey remains active even today under the direction of its Abbot who retains his ordinary jurisdiction intra septa monasterii. The Benedictine Monks of the ancient Abbey, founded near the tomb of the Apostle by Pope Gregory II (715-731), attend to the ministry of Reconciliation (or Penance) and the promotion of special ecumenical events. It is in this Basilica that every year on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, January 25, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity solemnly opens. The Pope has specified two privileged tasks for this Papal Basilica: the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance) and the development and organization of ecumenical initiatives. On June 28, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Basilica and announced that the following year would be designated the “Pauline Year” to commemorate the bimillennium of the birth of Saint Paul. Thus, the “Pauline Year” was run from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009.
Berlin, Germany
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3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 3 May 2014 via mobile

The abbazia is the great place in italy, I love this magnifica church and I love evrything in rome! Place that you have ti visit ...

Thank A_mainter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Level Contributor
94 reviews
52 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 62 helpful votes
Reviewed 1 May 2014

Go early to truly enjoy the serenity of the church and its precious artwork all around the church (maybe meditate in prayer in this vast papal basilica)
Beneath the main altar is St Paul's tomb, which a little of it can be seen through the iron grills and the chains which once bound him. What I found interesting was the mosaics of all the Popes from St Peter to the current Pope Francis lining the walls of the church and the beautiful Venetian mosaic in the apse. Stunning!
There are WC facilities to the side of the church.

Visited April 2014
Thank JD_JT12
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
102 reviews
11 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 51 helpful votes
“awe inspiring”
Reviewed 1 May 2014

I found this a couple of years ago when I was staying in San Paulo with a group, it was the last morning and we had zipped out for an early morning coffee fix, our guide had suggested we look at this so we mooched along and we were speechless, it was about 8am and a Mass was in progress. neither of us had thought to bring a camera but it stayed in my mind so when I was in Rome last week I took a morning out and went again, as it was mid morning Friday it was rather busy but despite that there was still plenty of room as it is just huge
there is no comparison to St Peters which is magnificent but this is much more special - perhaps it's the relative peace compared to St Peter's or it is just so unexpected in a relatively run down area
it is worth the short tube ride - avoid the food in the cafe though sadly it is pretty dire. I left my pollo milanese - a first for me
all the 5 star reviews are justified

Visited April 2014
Thank babetteGuildford
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kansas City, Missouri
Level Contributor
12 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“Worth going outside the walls”
Reviewed 26 April 2014

Rome has a plethora of churches so it takes a rather special basilica to lure the average Joe "outside the walls" of the ancient city. St Paul's or Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura is just such a church. It's a vast building but the lack of chairs makes it seem even larger. The exterior has a distinctly tropical feel with palm trees, delicately maintained gardens and peach and yellow colored frescoes. The inside uses the same color scheme but the walls are adorned with portraits of Popes up to and including Benedict XVI. The church wasn't around during the reign of St Peter or the next dozen or so Bishops of Rome. In fact construction didn't begin on the site until the 4th century when a structure was built over the tomb of St Paul. Since then it has gone through several overhauls to repair damage caused by menaces ranging from earthquakes to Saracen invaders. Consequently, it oozes history whilst looking a tad newer and fancier than some of the other basilicas such as St John Lateran.

The church has a very relaxed ambiance that is in stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of St Peter's and frankly most of the other sites in Rome. You don't have to be profoundly religious to enjoy the basilica but if you are of the religious persuasion you might be interested to get a glimpse of St Paul's tomb which is visible below the altar.

Despite being outside the ancient walls, St Paul's is very easy to get to on the underground metro. Even if you don't speak Italian, it doesn't take a linguistic genius to figure out that you need to get off at the stop called Sao Paolo. There aren't a lot of bars or restaurants in the vicinity but there is a McDonalds that has a rooftop terrace from where you plot your next excursion. Despite the intense competition, the basilica is my favorite church in all of Rome.

Visited May 2013
Thank CiaranJohn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Acworth, Georgia
Level Contributor
74 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 76 helpful votes
“Basilica of St Paul - Formal Name "San Paulo Fuori Le Mura" - AMAZING!”
Reviewed 26 April 2014

This was my 2nd trip to Rome and this time on business so we were making quick visits to places around the city. Since this was the #1 rated attraction on Trip Advisor, we decided to make the trip out. You can easily take the Metro (underground) for 1.50 Euros each way and get off of the Blue Line at the San Paulo stop which is 4 stops further outside the city past the Coloseo stop at the Coliseum. It is a short walk from the metro station (go to the left as you exit and then a right at the intersection and you will see it diagonally across that intersection) and there is a McDonald's on the way if you need a quick bite. This is in a very rural area and a 'real' non-touristy part of Rome. You actually enter from the back of the church (make sure to go out the other side and don't miss the front/courtyard view of the outside!) The church was rebuilt in the early 1800's after a fire but much was restored and much was added. The burial ground of St. Paul is in the center and a small portion is unearthed for viewing. There was a small mass occurring during our visit so the chanting was lovely. You can light a candle for a loved one as well as leave a donation near St. Paul to have a mass dedicated to a prayer of your choice. There are instructions near St. Paul. Or you can spend nothing as the entrance is FREE! There are portraits of every Pope up until today along the eaves of the church. Make sure to go to the gift shop early in your visit as the church remains open until 18:30 but when we tried the shop at 18:25 it had just closed. :( It is a very beautiful, moving place to visit and due to the 10 minute ride past the Coliseum it is not as well visited. Good luck for all of us!!! :) It is AMAZING!!! A must see.

Visited April 2014
7 Thank Fepeaux
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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