The basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura is one of the seven holy pilgrimage Churches that hold historical and religious significance in the World. An ode to Saint Paul, this church was built over his shrine in the year 324 by Emperor Constantine I. The construction was completed in 395 when the Basilica’s beauty was at its peak. The Church is known to depict several paintings of Popes, starting from Pope Peter to the current ones. Undergoing several reconstructions, and repairs, the Church remained open countryside during the medieval and post-medieval periods. Today, the church stands similar to the original Byzantine construction dating back to the 4th century. The beauty of the Church can be seen through its interiors with several paintings that depict Saint Paul’s journey and contributions. There is the holy door in the Church that is open during the holy years by the Pope. The mosaics of the Church shine in their beauty through the Triumphal Arch.
The Basilica Papale san paolo fuori le mura is made on a T-shaped plan with alignment running from west to east. There are 10 bays with each half on one of the ends of the aisles on the long nave. A semi-circular apse supports a wide transept. 4 external chapels are on the side of the semicircular apse, and two more chapels are along the ends of the transepts. A courtyard lies on the front of the church in a square plan. The fabric is made up of brick with a tiled and pitched roof.
The atrium of basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura was demolished in the 14th century because of a massive fire, and was restored in the original style. The rebuilt structure is much larger than the original atrium with 70-meter-long North, and South sides. There are 150 columns on the structure with 13 arches backed up by Corinthian columns on the entrance facade. The popular white statue of St Paul holding a sword is placed in the garden of Atrium Garden.
The bell tower of the basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura was built several times, once during the earthquake, and second during the rebuilding. Luigi Poletti built a new structure behind the apse in the style of South France’s Ancient Roman Tomb. The tower has 5 floors with a total height of 65 meters. The upper three floors of the tower are in geometrical shapes of circle, octagon, and square (Top to Bottom) with the bottom columns built in Doric styles.
The entrance lobby is known as the “Gregorian Portico” on the North-left of the transept. This is named as such because it was built under Pope Gregory XVI. There are 8 columns in the front, and four are behind, taken from the old building. One of the columns holds important details inscribed about Theodosian Basilica. There is a statue of Pope Gregory XVI built by Rinaldo Rinaldi. This entry point is now situated on the main road and is conveniently accessible to most visitors.
The Nave has two aisles on both sides with each Arcade containing 20 Corinthian Columns made up of granite, and marble. The interiors of the Nave remain the same since the construction. There are eight columns out of which 6 alabaster columns in the counterfacade were given by Egypt’s Khedive, and the other two belong to the tomb of the Saint. The ceiling of the Nave is decorated in gold, and white colors depicting the Popes of honor. There are several paintings on the Nave’s walls that narrate the life of Saint Paul.
There are portraits of Popes basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura starting from Pope Peter to the present Pope Francis I. This initiative was taken by Pope Leo the Great, and recommissioned by Pope Benedict XIV, and Pope Pious IX. Earlier frescoes were used and mosaics replaced them later. Some of the paintings were destroyed during the 19th-century fire but 41 were taken into the museum. Even Saint Paul’s paintings above the Nave Walls were restored at the same time.
The mosaic on the first Arch dates back to the 5th century as you move forward towards the Triumphal Arch. There is a head of Jesus Christ in the center with a raised hand, a popular Byzantine architecture of its time. There are several inscriptions that mention Emperor Theodosius, and Empress Galla Placidia donated them to the Church under Pope St Leo I. There are 14-meter-high columns made up of mosaic and are supporting the arch, replacing the original marble columns.
One of the highlights of basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura is the Altar of Conversion of Saint Paul in the left transept. Dating back to the 19th century, the altar relates to Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It is made up of bright green Malachite, and blue Lapis Lazuli. Next to the Altar, there are two statues of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, and Pope Saint Gregory, made using four Corinthian columns of peacock marble with inscriptions.
The Main Door of the basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura was built using bronze with a portion of silver designed by Antonio Mariani in the 20th century. The height of the main door is 7.48 meters and 3.35 meters wide. There are several symbols embedded on the main door with four depicting Evangelists on the horizontal bar, apostles on the vertical bar, and a cross motif in silver. Gregorio Zappala built the statues of Saint Paul, and Saint Peter on the side of the main door.
Originally, there used to be a wooden Holy door but Enrico Manfrini built a bronze one instead in 2000. The Holy door is open only during the holy years with the Pope performing an opening ceremony. There are six events depicted on the relief like Resurrection, Martyrdom of Saint Paul, Pentecost, etc. There is a Latin inscription on the door that reads that peace and salvation come to those who visit the holy temple of Paul, showcasing the religious significance, and positive vibes in paying respects in the church.
The Byzantine Door of Basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura was taken out of the main door upon the last wishes of Pope John XXIII. The door is the architecture of the Byzantines and governs the interior of Holy Doors around the Jubilee Years. The door dates back to 11th-century Constantinople relating to the consul of Amalfi. It has 54 panels that showcase Jesus Christ, and the Apostles with two leaves containing three columns and nine rows each.
When Paul of Tarsus- Saint Paul was executed between 65-68 AD, he was buried in the place of Basilica. Followers of the Sainted erected a memorial, known as “cella memoriae”, in this place to honor his contributions. Byzantine Emperor Constantine I commenced basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura in the 4th century and Pope Sylvester inaugurated the construction with ceremonies. According to the inscription, the first architect was Crusades, but the construction was made into a bigger, and more beautiful project by Emperor Theodosius.
The road junction was taken into the Church’s building to make it bigger. The Basilica reached its peak of beauty around the time of Emperor Honorius and completed its construction in 395. Around the 7th century, two monasteries were founded by Pope Gregory II for Benedictine Monks. Moving forward to the 14th century, the Basilica went through repair as a massive earthquake destroyed it. The Church held importance among Kings of England, such as King Edward III. In the medieval, and post-medieval periods, the basilica remained an open countryside with several dismantlements owing to fires and earthquakes. Around the 19-20th century, the basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura was restored and built in the original style of 4th-century architecture.
Opening Hours: Every day 07:00 AM to 06:30 PM
Location: Piazzale San Paolo, 1, 00146 Roma RM, Italy
How to Reach:
Best Time to Visit: You must visit basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura during the time of holy Christian festivals like Christmas, and Easter. Or visiting anytime during the Jubilee Years is the best time to visit.
The Basilica of Saint Paul outside the walls is known for honoring Saint Paul Apostles and has its shrine. The Church is a part of the 7-church Pilgrimage for Christians and is known for its beauty of mosaics in the Triumphal arch.
Basilica Papale san paolo fuori le mura was built in a period between 324 and 395. It was built over the tomb of Saint Paul Apostles, started by Emperor Constantine I. The construction got over under Emperor Honorius in 395, into a much bigger, and rich Church.
Get on a Train along the Metro Line B to reach San Paolo Basilica Stop. From there, you can take a quick walk to Via Ostiense, the area in which the basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura is located.
Pyramid of Cestius at 2.01 km, Baths of Caracalla at 2.6 km, Aurelian Walls at 2.6 km, Circus Maximus at 3 km, Palatine Hill at 3.5 km, Arch of Constantine at 3.6 km, and Arch of Septimius Severus at 3.8 km, from Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. All of these attractions are Ancient Roman historical sites, ideal for your archaeological expedition.
The dress code for basilica papale san paolo fuori le mura is similar to that of Catholic Churches- anything with modesty that doesn’t showcase knees and shoulders. You can think of wearing long skirts, dresses, pants, etc, and strictly avoid wearing crop tops, shorts, and sleeveless.