Wikipedia Entry on St. Paul's Outside the Walls

St. Paul’s Outside the Walls.

A brief history from Wikipedia.

Taken from

San Paolo fuori le Mura is a patriarchal basilica dedicated to St Paul, near the site of his tomb.

After his execution, St Paul was buried in a cemetery at this site, about two kilometres from the city walls by the road to Ostia. A shrine, or cella memoriae, was soon erected, and many early Christians came to venerate the Apostle.

The first church here was, according to the Liber Pontificalis, built by Emperor Constantine and consecrated on 18 November 324. It was a small church, built over the grave of St Paul. Between 384 and 386, Emperors Valentinian II, Theodosius and Arcadius demolished the church and built a large basilica. The architect was Cyriades. According to the inscription on the triumphal arch, it was consecrated in 390 by Siricius, and completed in 395 under Emperor Honorius. Although heavily restored, not least after it was damaged by fire, the present basilica looks much the same as it did in the 4th century.

Pope St Leo the Great (440–461) started restoring the church. About 50 years later, Pope St Symmachus (498–514) ordered the reconstruction of the apse, which was unsafe. Several more restorations and changes were carried out, under Pope St Gregory the Great (the transept), Pope Sergius I (the roof and some rooms), Pope Hadrian I (the aisles and atrium) and Pope Leo III (the transept, roof and floor, and added apse mosaic).

In 883, the walls and tower encircling the church were completed. This was knows as the "Johannipolis" (in Italian Giovannipoli), or "City of John" after Pope John VIII, and was built to protect the church from Lombards and Saracens. The defence works were tested in 1083–1084, when they withstood several attacks by Emperor Henry IV.

Fire broke out in 1115, and Pope Innocent II had a wall with columns built in the transept to support the unsafe roof. The transept was divided into two aisles by this wall.

Disaster struck again in 1349, when an earthquake badly damaged the basilica and destroyed the bell-tower and part of the portico. Pope Clement VI had the damages repaired.

Major restorations started under Pope Boniface IX, when he allowed all donations to the church to be used for repairs. Pope Martin V continued the work, and in 1426 the work was intensified under the rector of the church, Gabriele Condulmer, later Pope Eugene IV.

In 1653 Francesco Borromini designed plans for a total restructuring of the church. Due to a lack of funds, only the roof was changed under Pope Clement X.

At the end of the Holy Year of 1700, the Tiber flooded the area, and the basilica could not be visited. Its functions for the Jubilee were transferred to Santa Maria in Trastevere.

The portico was rebuilt in 1724 in preparation for the Holy Year of 1725 by Antonio Canevari. The former one, recently built by Alessandro Specchi, had collapsed on 1 May 1724. The ancient narthex was demolished at this time, and columns from the early four-sided portico were removed. At the same time, a series of other restorations were completed.

On the night between 15 and 16 July 1823, large parts of the basilica was damaged by fire. It was probably started by a careless worker while the roof was repaired. The atrium and more than half of of the nave were completely destroyed. It is said that Pope Pius VII, who was very ill and died on 20 August that year, was never told what had happened, after advice from his most trusted fellows such as the Secretary of State, Cardinal Consalvi.

Pope Leo XII was elected on 18 November 1823 and he decided to restore the basilica to its former glory rather than replace it with a new church in a more modern style. The first architect to lead the rebuilding was Pasquale Belli; Giuseppe Valadier had been appointed first but his plans for radical changes were eventually rejected and he was removed from the project in November 1825. Salvi, Paccagnini and Andrea Alippi were appointed as Belli's assistents. Work started in 1826, after a collection had been taken. Pope Gregory XVI took a great interest in the rebuilding; he was elected at the time when the first of the eighty columns in the nave was erected. In 1833 Luigi Poletta became the new chief architect. He was assisted by Bosio, Camporese and Virgino Vespigniani.

The high altar was re-consecrated on 5 October 1840 by Pope Gregory XVI. At that time, the nave was nowhere near completion, and only the transept could be used. The rebuilding would continue well into the 20th century.


Ancient cemetery

Under the covered building in the middle of the road outside the church are tombs of the cemetery in which St Paul was buried. It was reported on December 7th 2006 that Giorgio Filippi, an archeologist and inscriptions expert at the Vatican Museums and working for the Vatican, had unearthed a marble sarcophagus dating from "at least 390" as they worked to excavate the ancient crypt beneath the church. The sarcophagus has Paolo Apostolo Martyr (Paul Apostle Martyr) written on it and is very likely to contain the remains of Saint Paul who was executed by the Emperor Nero in 65AD.

In 2002 and 2003, Filippi examined the sarcophagus after having removed pavement stones to access chambers below the bascilica. Three vertical holes leading down to the lid were found, one of which is closed but thought to have lead directly into the sarcophagus. This was likely used to allow objects to come into contact with the remains of St. Paul in order to create secondary relics. These were popular in the late fourth century after Emperor Theodosius banned the trade of corporal relics. The New Testament states in Acts 19:11-12 "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them."

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