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Abbazia di San Paolo fuori le Mura

#14 of 1,498 things to do in Rome
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Address: Via Ostiense 186, 00146 Rome, Italy
Phone Number:
+39 06 541 0341
09:00 - 18:00
Open now
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Mon - Sat 09:00 - 18:00
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours

At the beginning of the 4th century, with the end of the persecutions and...

At the beginning of the 4th century, with the end of the persecutions and the promulgation of the Edicts of Tolerance in favour of Christianity, Emperor Constantine ordered the excavation of the cella memoriae, the place where Christians venerated the memory of Saint Paul the Apostle, beheaded under Nero around 65-67 A.D. Above his grave, located along the Ostiense Way, about two kilometers outside the Aurelian Walls surrounding Rome, Constantine built a Basilica which was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324.

Between 384 and 395 the Basilica, under the emperors Theodosius, Valentinian II and Arcadius, was restored and enlarged according to an extensive project consisting of five naves opening out into an atrium (quadriportico), or courtyard with four rows of columns. Throughout the centuries the Basilica would not cease to be embellished and enhanced by the Popes. For example, the massive defensive wall was built to protect against invasions at the end of the ninth century, while the bell tower and the magnificent Byzantine door were constructed in the eleventh century. Other important additions include Pietro Cavallini’s mosaics in the facade, the beautiful Vassalletto family’s cloister, Arnolfo di Cambio’s celebrated Gothic baldachin and the Candelabrum for the Paschal candle attributed to Nicola d’Angelo and Pietro Vassalletto of the thirteenth century. This historical period represents the golden age of what had been the biggest Basilica of Rome, until the consecration of the new Basilica of St. Peter in 1626. This sacred place of Christian pilgrimage was well-known for its artistic works.

On the night of July 15, 1823, a fire destroyed this unique testimony to the Paleo-Christian, Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Basilica was reconstructed identically to what it had been before, utilizing all the elements which had survived the fire. In 1840 Pope Gregory XVI consecrated the Altar of the Confession and the Transept.

Other embellishments followed the reconstruction. In 1928 the portico with 150 columns was added. Contemporary work in the Basilica has uncovered the tomb of the Apostle, while other important and beneficial works are carried out, as in the past, thanks to the generosity of Christians from all over the world.

In the fifth century under the Pontificate of Leo the Great, the Basilica became the home of a long series of medallions which would to this day depict all the popes throughout history. This testifies, in an extraordinary way, to “the very great, the very ancient and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul” (Saint Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses 3, 3,2).

Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls constitutes an extra-territorial complex (Motu Proprio by Pope Benedict XVI, 30 May 2005), administered by an Archpriest.

In addition to the Papal Basilica, the entire complex includes a very ancient Benedictine Abbey, restored by Odon of Cluny in 936. This Abbey remains active even today under the direction of its Abbot who retains his ordinary jurisdiction intra septa monasterii. The Benedictine Monks of the ancient Abbey, founded near the tomb of the Apostle by Pope Gregory II (715-731), attend to the ministry of Reconciliation (or Penance) and the promotion of special ecumenical events.

It is in this Basilica that every year on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, January 25, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity solemnly opens. The Pope has specified two privileged tasks for this Papal Basilica: the Sacrament of Reconciliation (or Penance) and the development and organization of ecumenical initiatives.

On June 28, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI visited the Basilica and announced that the following year would be designated the “Pauline Year” to commemorate the bimillennium of the birth of Saint Paul. Thus, the “Pauline Year” was run from June 28, 2008 to June 29, 2009.

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TripAdvisor Reviewer Highlights

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Because of it's size you don't notice other visitors and really feel as if the whole place belongs to you for that moment. Tranquil, impressive, lovely

Reviewed 1 week ago
Renate V
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3,449 Reviews from our TripAdvisor Community

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Showing 1,034: English reviews
Level Contributor
41 reviews
38 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed 1 week ago

Because of it's size you don't notice other visitors and really feel as if the whole place belongs to you for that moment. Tranquil, impressive, lovely

Thank Renate V
Milan, Italy
Level Contributor
123 reviews
12 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 35 helpful votes
Reviewed 2 weeks ago

One of the most beautiful papal basilica in Rome. As the name says, it's Outside the ancient Roman walls, because it was built over the burial place of St. Paul where he was executed (as per St. Peter in Vatican). It is one of the most beautiful examples of Neoclassical architecture in Italy with Byzantine inspirations in the golden façade.... More 

Thank MrSignorAl
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Level Contributor
69 reviews
59 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
Reviewed 19 April 2017

The papal mosiacs were stunning! Absolutely worth the visit to this church, especially since it's super close to a metro station.

Thank oneicol
New York City
Level Contributor
114 reviews
51 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
Reviewed 28 February 2017

St Paul Outside the Walls is hardly in the suburbs. It was way out of the city when it was built, but now is within the city limits and easily accessible by subway or bus. St Paul's is one of the four major basilicas in Rome, so a top pilgrim/tourist site. This is the place where they have the mosaics... More 

3 Thank happytrails555
Wicklow, Ireland
Level Contributor
74 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 24 helpful votes
Reviewed 16 February 2017 via mobile

We almost stumbled on this magnificent Basillica as we walked by, having got off the nearby metro quite spontanously. The Church and its surrounds are historic and beautiful. The history and the profiles of the personages is very interestingly illustrated. A priest with his back to the congregation Mass was being celebrated in one of the side chapels. That brought... More 

Thank 2013harryc
Chatham, Canada
Level Contributor
5 reviews
5 attraction reviews
Reviewed 15 February 2017

St. Paul Outside the Wall is a must see for anyone who knows the history of the papacy. The church itself is magnificent but the front doors and statues outside the entrance are breathtaking.

Thank jhgjameshiggins
Winchester, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
272 reviews
141 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 86 helpful votes
Reviewed 3 February 2017

We were fortunate to be able to attend Papal Vespers in this vast basilica. Queues for security checks were long, but it was reassuring to know that safety was a priority. It was a very special privilege to be present, and to see The Pope and it was an experience we shall never forget.

Thank Julie A
Rome, Italy
Level Contributor
14 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 25 January 2017

This is well worth a bus ride (23) or metro ride to San Paolo from Termini to see this historic basilica, the home of a Benedictine community as well as a major location for important services such as the Papal Vespers at the end of the week of prayer for Christian Unity, held on the feast of the Conversion of... More 

1 Thank tmacquiban
Columbus, Ohio
Level Contributor
70 reviews
36 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
Reviewed 15 January 2017

St Paul outside the Walls is a must see. It houses mosaics of each Pope since the very first Pope. The ceilings, walls, altars, statues are amazing. It is hard to even fathom the construction of this church. There is a short line to enter because of security. Bathrooms are .50E

Thank Shortnik6
Level Contributor
8 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
Reviewed 5 January 2017

By far one of the most amazing places visited in Italy, incredible architecture and design of the church and garden. Take a trip back in time to visit this gem outside the center.

Thank Al A

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