The Seven Churches Pilgrimage: St. Paul Outside the Walls

In this second episode of a special seven-part series, we take you on a spiritual journey through the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome to learn more about the history, art, architecture, and spiritual wealth of each of these storied places of worship, continuing with the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

By Sr. Gini George, SSpS

The second station of the Pilgrimage to the Seven Churches is the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

The site is universally considered a treasure trove of religious art and as an essential station in the pilgrimage to Rome.

It contains the mortal remains of St. Paul the Apostle, a man who gave himself totally to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.

At the beginning of the 4th century, Emperor Constantine ordered the excavation of the cella memoriae, or the place where Christians venerated the memory of St. Paul the Apostle, beheaded under Nero around 65 - 67 A.D.

Above his grave, about two kilometres outside the Aurelian Walls surrounding Rome, hence the name “Outside the Walls”, Constantine built a basilica which was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324.

It was then reconstructed and modified over the following centuries.

What we see today is the reconstruction of the Basilica after it was almost destroyed by a fire in 1823.

Inside the basilica, we can see on the walls portraits of each of the popes, with light placed on the portrait of the current pope, Pope Francis.

The tomb of St. Paul is in the centre of the church, where a fragment of chains that supposedly held the apostle in his martyrdom are also placed.

A canopy made in 1282 is placed over the Papal altar and the tomb of St. Paul and is supported by four columns. Four chapels are located on the transept.

More specifically, there is the chapel of St. Stephen, a young martyr in whose stoning Paul had taken part before his conversion, the chapel of St. Lawrence, the chapel of St. Benedict, and the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament containing 14th-century miraculous wooden cross that survived the fire.

St. Bridget of Sweden, a mother and a mystic, prayed before this miraculous cross; in her visions, she received the mission to bring the Pope back from Avignon to Rome.

Here at the Basilica of St Paul outside the walls, we stand in front of a man who gave himself totally to spread the Good News of Jesus.

He shows us that meeting with God is a discovery that leads to a change of life.

May our pilgrimage help us to let ourselves be evangelized, thus helping us to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.

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10 September 2022, 07:00