Given the distance, today was our smallest walking group, but we still ended up with about 150 at Mass plus about 40 priests. So I had a great idea this morning.. Since this one is the doozy as far as distance goes, I decided to record some short clips of our walk through the streets of Rome so you could get a sense of it all. I even made the video more interesting with soundtrack music! Enjoy watching:
Saint Paul was killed during the Christian persecutions of Nero in the latter 60s AD. As a Roman citizen, he merited a more dignified manner of death than the cross or the arena, and so at the end of his life he walked the ancient Via Ostiense (which we walked along today to the basilica) to a place now marked by the monastery of Tre Fontane (Three Fountains), and it was there that Paul was beheaded. His remains were interred in a small roadside tomb the spot of this basilica.
Saint Paul Outside the Walls
The first shrine built onsite was completed by Emperor Constantine before 340 AD, but Paul's popularity with Christian pilgrims soon outgrew the church, so Emperors Valentian II, Theodosius I, and Arcadius built a second, larger church which was dedicated around the year 400. It was the largest and most architecturally advanced basilica in Rome at the time, and fared well for several centuries until the Saracens invaded Rome in 847 and sacked the basilica. It was subsequently restored by Pope John VIII and again by Gregory VII, was who elected to the papacy in 1073.
In the high Middle Ages we have two big embellishments: first is the rear apse mosaic, which was completed around 1220 by Venetian artists at the request of Popes Innocent III and Honorius III. This might be my favorite apse mosaic in all of Rome. Second is the baldacchino above the high altar, which comes from the sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio in 1285. A beautiful piece of work.
Most of the nave was destroyed or heavily damaged when the roof caught fire on the 15th of July 1823. The restoration and reconstruction of the interior wasn't completed until 1854, and an exterior courtyard was added in 1928 to give the basilica the look you see today.
Maybe we remember a few famous predictions that the world was supposed to end about three times in 2012? Well there's a small joke that says the apocalypse won't really come until the very last spot in St. Paul's basilica is filled with a papal portrait. So the question is, how many blank circles are left in the entire basilica? Answer... only five!
Francis' portrait was just recently completed, so have a gander:
And I just had to put this last picture up because this is the best sculpture of St. Paul I've ever seen. It's the absolute best in Rome, and that's no matter of opinion, it's pure science. You what it is? It's the hooded robe. Well, and the sword. And the beard. St. Paul, pray for us!