Peter and Paul
The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was first built under the Emperor Constantine the Great in the 4th century AD, and today is one of the city’s four Major Ancient Papal Basilicas.
The basilica was built on the burial site of the St. Paul in order to commemorate his martyrdom, and the saint’s tomb still resides beneath its main altar today. St. Paul was one of Jesus’s Apostles and after the Crucifixion came to Rome with St. Peter
, the first Pope, in order to spread the message of Christianity. Like his fellow disciple Peter, Paul was martyred under the tyrannical reign of Nero, probably by beheading.
In 1823 the basilica burned down thanks to a careless workman who was repairing lead on the roof, leaving little except the apse and triumphal arch of the original structure surviving. The reconstruction was an ornate affair: the new design features gorgeous columned porticoes framing the courtyard of the building, and inside are further rows of columns lining the nave under ornate stuccoed ceilings.
Some elements of the old church remain, such as the 5th century mosaic depicting Christ with angels and wise men above the Chancel arch, a fabulous 12th century paschal candlestick, and the Gothic baldacchino canopy above the main altar from 1286. You can also visit the serene 13th century cloister, considered the most beautiful of the Middle Ages, which boasts a charming rose garden surrounded by decorative columns of all shapes and sizes which seem to stand guard over the ancient tombs placed here during the renovations of the 19th century.