I can't remember if I've said this before. So, St. Paul Outside the Walls constitutes one of the four major basilicas of Rome, along with St. Peter, St. John Lateran, and St. Mary Major. Yes, this basilica is actually outside the walls of the city, but luckily we took a bus that got us there in great time! We had the pleasure of receiving this tour from Sr. Manuela again, the green-clad nun from the Missionaries of Divine Revelation. I got a pic this time! She gave us the tour of St. John Lateran during my early orientation. I was actually even more excited about this tour because I was psyched for the "late men" to experience this divinely inspired force. The body of St. Paul is buried here!
|Couldn't get this in one shot, but it sure was a beaut. This front half here behind these columns is a 'garden' of sorts, and the church building proper takes up the latter half.|
|This photo reminds me of two great childhood books: I Spy, and Where's Waldo|
|This is the interior courtyard. It would have been more garden-y back in the day, but its purpose was to resemble the Garden of Eden. This garden reminded Christians that the Mass is a participation in this world of the heavenly Eden in the next.|
|Facade of St. Paul's, which as you can see looks very much like a Roman building. More about this later.|
|The garden-y statue of St. Paul, with his New Testament letters and the Sword of the Spirit.|
|Couldn't decide which one I liked more. So you get both!|
|Front mosaic. Note at the top, Peter on Jesus' right and Paul on His left|
|The outer vestibule, before entering the basilica.|
|Sanctuary and high altar|
|St. Paul is buried right here under the altar|
|Ecco St. Paul's tomb.|
|St. Paul's chains. He was placed under strict house arrest in Rome for a few years before being martyred.|
|The walls of St. Paul's record the unbroken succession of popes from Peter (farthest left) all the way to Benedict XVI today. That would be 265 portraits and counting!|
|This is a close up of the apse, located behind the main altar and above the celebrant's chair. One of the more famous depictions of Christ on his throne. This is just gorgeous in person. You can see the IC XC to the left and right of his face, a traditional abbreviation of the Greek word for Jesus Christ, ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ.|
|In the right transept is the Assumption altar with the copy of an original mosaic of the coronation of Mary, spoken about in the Book of Revelation. It was done in 1492 by the artist Giulio Romano. The disciples are together looking for Mary at her tomb but she has been assumed body and soul into heaven and crowned by Christ with the crown of 12 stars.|
|Sr. Manuela at, I can't remember if this is the baptismal font or just a holy water font. She used it to remind us of how something as simple as signing the Cross upon ourselves with holy water causes the enemy to flee, because he cannot stand to be near anything that is holy or sacred.|
|My classmate Paul. He is from the archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis in Minnesota, and his home parish is the cathedral of St. Paul. Who wouldn't love taking pics with Paul from St. Paul in St. Paul, at the basilica of St. Paul?|
Some notes about the pictures:
You'll note that the basilica looks quite rectangular and Romanesque on the inside. That's because the general structure has been almost unchanged since it was first built in the 4th century. Well, the very first church was built by Constantine in 324, but it was rebuilt into this much larger basilica and completed in 394 by Emperor Honorius. As you know, the Romans were all about doing things in the Roman style. Over the centuries it has been continually restored, including a major restoration in 1823 after a fire in the roof nearly ruined the entire church, but it looks much the same today as it did 16 centuries ago. Wowzers that is cool.
In the apse, Jesus is holding open the Scriptures to the verse that reads, "Venite Benedicti Patris Mei, Percipite Regnum Q V P A O M". The letters are short for "Quod Vobis Paratum est Ab Origine Mundi". This is Matthew 25:34, "Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Standing next to him are St. Paul and St. Luke to his near and far right, and St. Peter and St. Andrew to his near and far left.
The Christian art buffs out there will note something striking here! In the entire historical tradition of Christian art, when Jesus, Peter, and Paul are shown together you will almost never see Paul on Jesus' right and Peter on his left, but always the opposite. It stems from the reality of apostolic tradition, that by giving Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the power of binding and loosing (Matthew 16:18-19), Christ named the office by which his power would continue to be concretely distributed in his Church after he ascended to heaven.
It's why one of the pope's titles is Vicar of Christ, because the vicar is the person who rules temporally and temporarily in the absence of the king. So just as Jesus stands at his Father's right hand to communicate the Father's love and power, so too in Christian art does the office of Peter (and usually Peter in particular) stand at Christ's right hand to communicate Christ's love and power on earth. Thus, Peter always at Jesus' right.
So why are they switched here? Buona domanda! (Italian for, good question). I would imagine because this is St. Paul's church and the place of his burial, so in this spot he gets the honor of being the "right hand man".
St. Paul's scroll reads, "In Nomine Iesu Omne Genu Flectatur Caelestium Terrestium et Infernorum", which is from Philippians 2:10, "At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth".
St. Luke's scroll appears to be written in Greek? and I don't know what it says.
St. Peter's scroll reads, "Tu Es X P Filius Dei Vivi" where X P is Chi Rho, the first two Greek Letters of "Christ". It is Peter's confession in Matthew 16:16 "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".
St. Andrew's scroll reads, "Beatus Andreas DV Penderet In Cruce Deprecabatur D(*)V Iesu Crst", which is partially abbreviated. I don't know what the (*) character is, but it reads "Saint Andrew, when he hangs on the cross will pray to the Lord Jesus Christ". Recall that St. Andrew was martyred for the faith by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross.
I am not a Latin expert, by the way, because Sr. Manuela told us what they said. But what I really loved about St. Paul's is that it seemed like a place that you could actually have some silence and pray. Perhaps that it is less-traveled outside the city walls of Rome helps this cause, and also that we went first thing in the morning. St. Peter's was like this too, the morning we had Mass there at 7 am. When no one is in there, it's just a whole different experience. But with the popular churches there are tons of pilgrims and travelers who are usually walking around and taking pics and getting tours, what have you. It was nice to feel like we were actually in a church, where there is time and space and silence to pray. And obviously, being near St. Paul was pretty incredible, too. This will be one place that I'd like to revisit on my own and spend more time.
I am continually amazed at just how much history of our faith can be found in this city. What a grace for us that it has been protected and passed on for thousands of years so that we can encounter in our own day evidence of God's concrete providence through time. To be able to see the witness of people who gave everything for what they believed really encourages me to do the same with my own life!
This makes nothing but sense, considering that our very lives are utterly gratuitous; we don't exist by any kind of absolute universal or logical necessity. That means we can't lay claim to anything, as we have been literally gifted into existence by God. We are totally gift (or as they say in philosophy, gift-ness), and gifts by their very nature fulfill their purpose by being given. You don't buy a birthday present and then bury it in the ground. You give it to the one you love. So at every moment of our lives, it will always be the case that our happiness and fulfillment depends on the extent to which we personally choose to give ourselves for the ones we love.
That was slam dunk number one. Number two goes thus: God has made clear for us who are "the ones we love". Not only Him and our brothers and sisters, but also the poor, the difficult, the suffering, the outcast, and even our enemy.
We can be a gift given, or a gift wasted. And that decision is on us. Let's make the right choice!