Wednesday, July 3, 2013

St. Paul Outside the Walls

Today began with mass in another one of the four Major Basilicas, the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. This is Bishop Paul Etienne's favorite basilica, but no big surprise there. It is a very simple basilica, at least compared to some of the others we've visited recently. One interesting feature of this basilica is that they have a mosaic of each pope, from St. Peter through Pope Benedict XVI (they're still working on Francis's picture) lining the upper walls of the basilica. We celebrated mass on a side altar, because ordinarily only the pope celebrates mass on the main altars of the Major Basilicas. St. Paul's tomb is located below the main altar, and the foundation of the fourth century basilica that preceded the current structure is also visible. During the year of St. Paul in 2008-09 archeologists drilled into the tomb located below the altar and discovered purple threads. Purple was an expensive dye in the ancient world, so anyone who was buried with it was a person of some importance. This lends credence to the undisputed tradition that Paul's mortal remains are indeed below the altar of this church. 

Exterior view of the basilica

From inside the basilica's courtyard

Inside the basilica

The high altar and the apse. A few of the popes's images can be seen in the circles on either side of the apse.

St. Paul's tomb behind the grille

The foundation of the earlier basilica

Peter and Paul are always a team

The front of the basilica and courtyard

We then returned to the hotel for lunch, and then had a free afternoon because the normally scheduled Wednesday audience with the pope was cancelled this week. I joined a small group of young adults to wander a touristy shopping area near St. Peter's. We enjoyed dinner while we were out, and then we sat in St. Peter's Square as darkness descended in order to see the illuminated St. Peter's. Now, I am preparing to go to bed earlier than I have yet on this pilgrimage, only 10:30 pm.

St. Peter's through the columns

From another angle she's touching the tip of the dome. From this angle she just looks silly.

This basilica is beautiful at any hour

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