During the night of July 15th/16th, 1823, the ancient Basilica of St Paul's Outside the Walls (San Paolo fuori le Mura) was almost completely destroyed by fire. The 13th century cloister, one of the most beautiful in Rome, thankfully survived the conflagration.
Pope Leo XII (r. 1823-29) ordered the immediate reconstruction of the basilica, which had been founded at the end of the 4th century. The transept was consecrated by Pope Gregory XVI (r. 1831-46) in 1840 and the complete church by Pope Pius IX (r. 1846-78) on December 10th, 1854.
St Paul's Outside the Walls, the second largest (132 m by 65 m by 80 m) church in Rome, takes the form of a Tau Cross.
The much-restored 5th century mosaics on the triumphal arch (a relic of the old basilica) depict a rather grim-faced Christ blessing in the Greek manner. The mosaics on the inner face of the arch are by the Roman artist Pietro Cavallini (c.1250-c.1330).
Both the ciborium, above the high altar, and the paschal candlestick survived the fire. The former is signed by Arnolfo di Cambio and dates back to 1285, while the latter is the work of Nicolo di Angelo and Pietro Vasselletto and was carved between the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th.
The great mosaic in the apse was originally executed, c 1220, by Venetian craftsmen for Pope Honorius III (r. 1216-27).
Blogging about Rome,
its art, history and culture.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
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