Wednesday, 25 January 2017

St Paul in Rome

Today, in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, Pope Francis will celebrate the Conversion of St Paul.

Caravaggio depicted the event in a painting which can be seen in Santa Maria del Popolo and monuments to the life of the saint can be seen around the city.

The church of Santa Maria in Via Lata, just off the Via del Corso, was, according to legend, built over the house of the centurion who guarded the imprisoned St Paul on this spot.

Continuing along the Via del Corso will bring you to Piazza Colonna, dominated by the Column of Marcus Aurelius. The column was built to commemorate the triumphs of Marcus Aurelius in battle and was originally surmounted by a statue of the emperor himself but in the 16th century it was replaced by a statue of St Paul.

The Pyramid of Caius Cestius was built as the tomb of the wealthy official in 12BC and would have been one of the last monuments that St Paul would have seen as he was led to his execution along the Ostian Way.

 The small church of San Paolo Tre Fontaine was built in the 5th century over what was believed to be the site of St Paul's martyrdom. Legend says that as he was decapitated, his head bounced three times and fountains miraculously sprang up at each place where his head touched the ground.

Close by, in the crypt of Santa Maria Scala Coeli, can be seen the cell where St Paul was supposedly held before his beheading.

These two churches can be found within the shaded paths of the Tre Fontaine Monastery, not far from EUR. The Trappist monks here are well known for producing chocolate & honey.

The Basilica San Paolo Fuori La Mura (St Paul Outside the Walls) was built over the Apostles tomb. The building we see today was reconstructed in the 19th century after a great fire destroyed the basilica.

Gifts from all over the world were given at the time of the rebuilding, including malachite and lapus lazuli from Czar Nicholas 1 which adorn two of the altars.

The Paschal candlestick is one of the few things to be rescued from the fire and dates back to the 12th century.

The mosaics of every pope dating back to St Peter are copies of those from the original basilica.

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