Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

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Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura (Italian)
Basilica Sancti Pauli extra moenia (Latin)
Roma San Paolo fuori le mura BW 1.JPG
Façade of the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls
Basic information
Location Rome, Italy[Notes 1]
Geographic coordinates 41°51′31″N 12°28′38″E / 41.85861°N 12.47722°E / 41.85861; 12.47722Coordinates: 41°51′31″N 12°28′38″E / 41.85861°N 12.47722°E / 41.85861; 12.47722
Affiliation Roman Catholic
Year consecrated 4th century
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Major basilica
Leadership James Michael Harvey
Website Official Website
Architectural description
Architectural type Church
Direction of façade WbN
Groundbreaking 4th century
Completed 1823
Specifications
Length 150 metres (490 ft)
Width 80 metres (260 ft)
Width (nave) 30 metres (98 ft)
Height (max) 73 metres (240 ft)
Official name: Historic Centre of Rome, the Properties of the Holy See in that City Enjoying Extraterritorial Rights and San Paolo Fuori le Mura
Type: Cultural
Criteria: i, ii, iii, iv, vi
Designated: 1980 (4th session)
Reference No. 91
State Party: Italy and Holy See
Region: Europe and North America

The Papal Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls (Italian: Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura), commonly known as St Paul's Outside the Walls, is one of Rome's four ancient major basilicas or papal basilicas:[Notes 2] the basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Peter's and Saint Paul Outside the Walls. James Michael Harvey was named archpriest of the basilica in 2012.

History[edit]

The basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over the burial place of Saint Paul, where it was said that, after the Apostle's execution, his followers erected a memorial, called a cella memoriae. This first edifice was expanded under Valentinian I in the 370s.

In 386, Emperor Theodosius I began erecting a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept; the work including the mosaics was not completed until Leo I's pontificate (440–461). In the 5th century it was larger than the Old St. Peter's Basilica. The Christian poet Prudentius, who saw it at the time of emperor Honorius (395–423), describes the splendours of the monument in a few expressive lines. As it was dedicated also to Saints Taurinus and Herculanus, martyrs of Ostia in the 5th century, it was called the basilica trium Dominorum ("basilica of Three Lords").

Under Gregory the Great (590–604) the basilica was extensively modified. The pavement was raised to place the altar directly over Paul's tomb. A confession permitted access to the Apostle's sepulcher.

In that period there were two monasteries near the basilica: St. Aristus's for men and St. Stefano's for women. Masses were celebrated by a special body of clerics instituted by Pope Simplicius. Over time the monasteries and the basilica's clergy declined; Pope Saint Gregory II restored the former and entrusted the monks with the basilica's care.

As it lay outside the Aurelian Walls, the basilica was damaged in the 9th century during the Saracen invasions. Consequently, Pope John VIII (872–882) fortified the basilica, the monastery, and the dwellings of the peasantry, forming the town of Joannispolis (Italian: Giovannipoli) which existed until 1348, when an earthquake totally destroyed it.

In 937, when Saint Odo of Cluny came to Rome, Alberic II of Spoleto, Patrician of Rome, entrusted the monastery and basilica to his congregation and Odo placed Balduino of Monte Cassino in charge. Pope Gregory VII was abbot of the monastery and in his time Pantaleone, a rich merchant of Amalfi who lived in Constantinople, presented the bronze doors of the basilica maior, which were executed by Constantinopolitan artists; the doors are inscribed with Pantaleone's prayer that the "doors of life" may be opened to him.[1] Pope Martin V entrusted it to the monks of the Congregation of Monte Cassino. It was then made an abbey nullius. The abbot's jurisdiction extended over the districts of Civitella San Paolo, Leprignano, and Nazzano, all of which formed parishes. But the parish of San Paolo in Rome is under the jurisdiction of the cardinal vicar.

Cloister of the monastery of San Paolo fuori le mura

The graceful cloister of the monastery was erected between 1220 and 1241.

From 1215 until 1964 it was the seat of the Latin Patriarch of Alexandria.

The Holy Door
Interior of the church
Arnolfo di Cambio's tabernacle

On 15 July 1823 a fire, started through the negligence of a workman who was repairing the lead of the roof, resulted in the almost total destruction of the basilica which, alone of all the churches of Rome, had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. It was re-opened in 1840, and reconsecrated 1855 with the presence of Pope Pius IX and fifty cardinals. Completing the works of reconstruction took longer, however, and many countries made their contributions. The Viceroy of Egypt sent pillars of alabaster, the Emperor of Russia the precious malachite and lapis lazuli of the tabernacle. The work on the principal façade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian Government, which declared the church a national monument. On 23 April 1891 the explosion of the gunpowder magazine at Forte Portuense destroyed the stained glass windows.

On 31 May 2005 Pope Benedict XVI ordered the Basilica to come under the control of an Archpriest and he named Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo as its first archpriest.

Apse mosaic (1220). The apse mosaic was made by Venetian artists. Christ is flanked by the Apostles Peter, Paul, Andrew and Luke.
Detail of the apse mosaic: portrait of Pope Honorius III, who ordered the mosaic
Plan of the basilica

Architecture and interior[edit]

The covered portico that precedes the façade is a Neo-classicist addition of the 19th-century reconstruction. The 20th-century door includes the remains of the leaves from the original portal, executed by Staurachius of Chios around 1070 in Constantinople, with scenes from the New and Old Testament. On the right is the Holy Door, which is opened only during the Jubilees.

The new basilica has maintained the original structure with one nave and four aisles. It is 131.66 metres (432.0 ft) long, 65 metres (213 ft)-wide, and 29.70 metres (97.4 ft)-high, the second largest in Rome.

The nave's 80 columns and its stucco-decorated ceiling are from the 19th century. All that remains of the ancient basilica are the interior portion of the apse with the triumphal arch. The mosaics of the apse, work by Pietro Cavallini, were mostly lost in the 1823 fire; only a few traces were incorporated in the reconstruction. The 5th-century mosaics of the triumphal arch are original: an inscription in the lower section attest they were done at the time of Leo I, paid by Galla Placidia. The subject portrays the Apocalypse of John, with the bust of Christ in the middle flanked by the 24 doctors of the church, surmounted by the flying symbols of the four Evangelists. St. Peter and St. Paul are portrayed at the right and left of the arch, the latter pointing downwards (probably to his tomb).

The tabernacle of the confession of Arnolfo di Cambio (1285) belong to the 13th century.

In the old basilica each pope had his portrait in a frieze extending above the columns separating the four aisles and naves. A 19th-century version can be seen now. The nave's interior walls were also redecorated with scenes from Saint Paul's life in two mosaics.

The sacristy contains a fine statue of Pope Boniface IX.

South of the transept is the cloister, considered "one of the most beautiful of the Middle Ages".[2] Built by Vassalletto in 1205-1241, it has double columns of different shapes. Some columns have inlays with golden and coloured-glass mosaics; the same decoration can be seen on the architrave and the inner frame of the cloister. Also visible are fragments from the destroyed basilica and ancient sarcophagi, one with scenes of the myth of Apollo.

The tomb of St. Paul[edit]

According to tradition, Paul's body was buried two miles away from the place of his martyrdom, in the sepulchral area along the Ostiense Way, which was owned by a Christian woman named Lucina. A tropaeum was erected on it and quickly became a place of veneration.[Notes 3]

Constantine I erected a basilica on the tropaeum's site, and the basilica was significantly extended by Theodosius I from 386, into what is now known as Saint Paul Outside the Walls. During the 4th century, Paul's remains, excluding the head, were moved into a sarcophagus. (According to church tradition the head rests at the Lateran.) Paul's tomb is below a marble tombstone in the Basilica's crypt, at 1.37 metres (4.5 ft) below the altar. The tombstone bears the Latin inscription PAULO APOSTOLO MART ("to Paul the apostle and martyr"). The inscribed portion of the tombstone has three holes, two square and one circular. The circular hole is connected to the tomb by a pipeline, reflecting the Roman custom of pouring perfumes inside the sarcophagus, or to the practice of providing the bones of the dead with libations. The sarcophagus below the tombstone measures 2.55 metres (8.4 ft) long, 1.25 metres (4.1 ft) wide and 0.97 metres (3.2 ft) high.

Front of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

The discovery of the sarcophagus is mentioned in the chronicle of the Benedictine monastery attached to the Basilica, in regard to the 19th century rebuilding. Unlike other sarcophagi found at that time, this was not mentioned in the excavation papers.[3]

On 6 December 2006, it was announced that Vatican archaeologists had confirmed the presence of a white marble sarcophagus beneath the altar, perhaps containing the remains of the Apostle.[4][5] A press conference held on 11 December 2006[6] gave more details of the work of excavation, which lasted from 2002 to 22 September 2006, and which had been initiated after pilgrims to the basilica expressed disappointment that the Apostle's tomb could not be visited or touched during the Jubilee year of 2000.[7] The sarcophagus was not extracted from its position, so that only one of its two narrow sides is visible.[8]

A curved line of bricks indicating the outline of the apse of the Constantinian basilica was discovered immediately to the west of the sarcophagus, showing that the original basilica had its entrance to the east, like Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. The larger 386 basilica that replaced it had the Via Ostiense (the road to Ostia) to the east and so was extended westward, towards the river Tiber, changing the orientation diametrically.

Abbots[edit]

Archpriests[edit]

Other burials[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The basilica, which is owned by the Holy See (article 13 of the Lateran Treaty), "form(s) part of the territory of the Italian State (but) enjoy(s) the immunities granted by International Law to the headquarters of the diplomatic agents of foreign States" (article 15 of the Lateran Treaty).
  2. ^ Benedict XVI’s theological act of renouncing the title of "Patriarch of the West" had as consequence that Roman Catholic patriarchal basilicas are today officially known as Papal basilicas.
  3. ^ the earliest account of a visit to the memorials of the apostles is attributed to Gaius, the Presbyter, "who lived when Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome [AD 199–217]", as quoted by Eusebius reporting that "I can point out the tropaia of the Apostles [Peter and Paul]; for if you go to the Vatican or the Ostian Way, you will find the tropaia of those who founded this Church".

References[edit]

  1. ^ Margaret English Frazer, "Church Doors and the Gates of Paradise: Byzantine Bronze Doors in Italy", Dumbarton Oaks Papers 27 (1973:145–162)
  2. ^ Hinzen-Bohlen, p. 411
  3. ^ Gheddo, Piero (2006-09-22). "Asia News: Saint Paul’s sarcophagus found". Asianews.it. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  4. ^ "St. Paul's Tomb Unearthed in Rome". National Geographic News. 11 December 2006. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  5. ^ "St Paul burial place confirmed". Catholic News Agency. 2006-12-06. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  6. ^ Communiqué about the press conference
  7. ^ "Associated Press: ''Have St. Paul’s remains been unearthed?''". MSNBC. 2006-12-07. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  8. ^ Fraser, Christian (2006-12-07). "Christian Fraser, St Paul's tomb unearthed in Rome, BBC News, 7 December 2006". BBC News. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  • Hinze-Bohlen, Brigitte. Kunst & Architektur-ROM. Cologne: Könemann. 
  • Rendina, Claudio (2000). Enciclopedia di Roma. Newton & Compton. pp. 867–868. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]