MAY 12,2014 - MAY 12,2014 (1 DAYS)
San Pietro in Vincoli, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, Basilica di San Paulo Fuori le Mura:
This trip leads you to four of the most famous, the biggest and most magnificent Basilicas in Rome. All of them can easily be accessed by the Rome Metro lines.
Start: Cavour Metro station on Line B.
End: Basilica S. Paolo Metro station on Line B.
In A.D. 60 Paul, one of the 12 apostles, arrived in Rome and started to diffuse the Christian religion. The first massacre of Christians was organized by Nero in A.D. 64. As a huge fire consumed large parts of Rome, rumors spread that Nero started the fire to gain space to erect his new palace. Nero, frightened, charged the Christians and organized the massacre to silence them. St. Paul and St. Peter likely died during this massacre. Christians were burned on high crosses. As a Roman citizen, Paul was executed by decapitation. The conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 314 allowed the expansion of Christianity and the end of the massacres. After the defeat of the last Roman emperor, Romulus Augustule, and the end of the Roman Empire, the city of Rome fell under the political control of Christian Popes. Countless churches were built during the following centuries.
13 MOST NOTABLE POPES:
Leo I ('the Peacemaker'; 461 - 468):
Leo the First may have been most famous for work he did before ascending to the Papacy: The former aristocrat and then bishop convinced the feared Attila the Hun not to sack Rome. It's possible Leo offered Attila a pile of loot, or the warlord used the meeting as an excuse to turn back, given his own strategic concerns. Another possibility is that the Pope may have played on Attila's superstitious fear of dying soon after the sacking, just as Alaric I (king of a tribe of Goths) did after the despoiling of Rome decades earlier.
Gregory I ('the Great'; 590-604):
The son of a wealthy family in Rome, with two former Popes in his ancestry, Gregory took a life of monastic austerity after periods of time studying law and as prefect of Rome. This combination proved invaluable to the emperor and people of Rome, resulting in Gregory being forcibly removed from cloister life to be elected Pope. Despite his reservations, he was an energetic and practical Pope, becoming heavily involved in the civil ruling of Italy, and defining Papal supremacy in both the east and western empires.
Gregory VII, the reformer (1073-1085):
He established celibacy for members of the clergy. He is famous also for the church's role in the Investiture Controversy in which he excommunicated Henry IV, affirming the primacy of the Papal authority over the emperor for the investiture (choice) of the bishops. Attacked by Henry IV, Gregory VII found refuge in the Castel San'Angelo. The Normans (also known as barbarians) agreed to form an alliance with the Pope and saved him. But the Normans also devastated Rome, so that, scared by the reaction of Roman citizens, Gregory VII was compelled to go into exile.
Sixtus IV (1471-1484):
He was the builder of the famous Sistine Chapel. But he also had dark spots in his story: To help his nephews obtain the coveted charge of Bishops, he organized the murder of Giuliano de Medici during a church service in the Cathedral of Florence.
Julius II (Giuliano della Rovere; 1503-13):
Born to a humble family in 1443, the ruthless and energetic Giuliano della Rovere has gone down in history as the warrior Pope, a man who led his armies into battle dressed in full armour. When the grandiose funerary monument planned for him by Michelangelo came to nothing, Julius was buried simply beneath the pavement of St Peter's.
Leo X (Giovanni de' Medici; 1513-21):
The second son of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giovanni de' Medici was created Cardinal when only thirteen. The celebrated portrait by Raphael (of whom Leo was an enthusiastic patron) shows him to have been rather corpulent. He perspired a good deal and during ecclesiastical functions was always wiping his face and hands, to the distress of bystanders. His bull Exsurge Domine of 1520 condemned 41 errors of Martin Luther. His tomb is in Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
Clement VII (Giulio de' Medici; 1523-34):
The bastard nephew of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Giulio de' Medici was declared legitimate and created Cardinal in 1513. He had dark brown eyes, the left one squinting. According to Benvenuto Cellini he had excellent taste-the beautiful but faded portrait by Sebastiano del Piombo (Capodimonte, Naples) makes him look vain and supercilious. Clement's bitter relations with the Emperor Charles V led to the disastrous Sack of Rome in 1527. Trapped for seven months in Castel Sant'Angelo, he grew a beard as a sign of mourning. He refused to allow Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon. He is also buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
Paul III (Alessandro Farnese; 1534-49):
As Cardinal, Alessandro Farnese fathered four children, but he put away his mistress in 1514. His secular interests were not entirely abandoned, however. He loved masked balls, fireworks, clowns and dwarfs, and in 1536 he revived the carnival, when enormous floats were dragged through the streets of Rome by teams of buffalo. Yet he was a great reformer, and as well as his human children he fathered a number of religious orders, most importantly the Jesuits, in 1540. Paul also established the Congregation of the Roman Inquisition, to extirpate heresy. When he was elected, he claimed he had waited 30 years for Michelangelo-and promptly commissioned the Last Judgement and the new layout of the Campidoglio. He is buried in St Peter's in a beautiful tomb by Guglielmo della Porta.
Paul V (Camillo Borghese; 1605-21):
From a Sienese family, but a self-proclaimed proud Roman, Paul V amassed great power and fortune for himself (and his relatives) whilst Pope, and oversaw a number of substantial projects in Rome: the completion of St Peter's, the rebuilding of a Trajan aqueduct which supplied fresh water to fountains in the city, and the enrichment of the Vatican library. His nephew, Cardinal Scipione Borghese, was one of the great art collectors of the time. Paul is buried in the Borghese chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore.
Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini; 1623-44):
Authoritarian, highly conscious of his own position, and a shameless nepotist, Urban was also learned and artistic. He wrote Latin verses (and indeed spoiled many hymns in the Breviary by rewriting them). Though an unpopular Pope (there was unseemly rejoicing when he died), he gave Rome the art and architecture of Bernini, the young sculptor whom he made architect of the new St Peter's. The Basilica was consecrated in 1626. Urban lies buried there, commemorated by a funeral monument designed by Bernini.
Innocent X (Giovan Battista Pamphilj; 1644-55):
Innocent was elected in 1644, after a stormy conclave (he was opposed by France), and consecrated on 4th October at a particularly splendid ceremony, when for the first time the St. Peter personnel lit up the dome of the Basilica with flaming torches. His ugliness was noted by contemporaries, and Velásquez's famous portrait in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj which inspired several modern versions by Francis Bacon-has caught his disturbing, implacable gaze. His life was blameless, but he was irresolute and suspicious. Innocent died in January 1655 after a long agony; no one wanted to pay for his burial. Later a funerary monument was set up in the church of Sant'Agnese, which has a façade by his favoorite architect, Borromini.
Pius VII (Luigi Barnaba Chiaramonti; 1800-23):
Elected in March 1800, Pius was constrained by political and military events to sign a concordat with Bonaparte in 1801. In 1804 he went to Paris to officiate at the emperor's coronation; he was rudely treated, and Napoleon placed the crown on his own head. In 1809 Pius was arrested by the French and interned. In 1814, after Bonaparte's fall, he returned to Rome amidst general rejoicing. Pius was magnanimous towards Napoleon's family. He died in 1823, after falling and breaking a leg. His funerary monument in St Peter's is by (the Protestant) Bertel Thorvaldsen.
Pius IX (Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti; 1846-78):
Pius was politically maladroit, and to many his name is a byword for intransigence and arch-conservatism. Garibaldi despised him and named his horse 'Papa Mastai'; in Italian his regnal number (Pio Nono) sounds like a double negative, as though he were always saying 'No, no' to the radical reforms that were proposed to him-unsurprising, perhaps, since the radicals wanted his territories. Nationalist armies seized the Papal States in 1860 and Rome in 1870, confining Papal authority to the Vatican. Pius was the last Pope to hold temporal power. On the ecclesiastical level he was a very great Pope, and even his enemies acknowledged his charm. In 1856 he defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception; in 1870 he proclaimed the dogma of Papal Infallibility. After the longest reign in papal history he died in 1878, and lies buried in a simple tomb in San Lorenzo fuori le Mura.
From Cavour station we turn left. in the opposite side of the road you'll see staircase. Climb the steps and turn right for a walk of 100 m. On your left is Piazza and the Chiesa of San Pietro in Vincoli. In contrary to the other three Basilicas - the S.P in Vincoli is minor basilica in Rome. It is best known for being the home of Michelangelo's statue of Moses, part of the tomb of Pope Julius II (see list of Popes above). Go early to avoid the tour buses. it was first rebuilt on older foundations in 432–440 to house the relic of the chains that bound Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem, the episode called the Liberation of Saint Peter. The Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III), who received them as a gift from her mother, Aelia Eudocia, consort of Valentinian II, presented the chains to Pope Leo I. Aelia Eudocia had received these chains as a gift from Iuvenalis, bishop of Jerusalem. According to legend, when Leo, while he compared them to the chains of St. Peter's final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together. The chains are kept in a reliquary under the main altar in the Basilica. The Basilica, consecrated in 439 by Sixtus III, has undergone several restorations, among them a restoration by Pope Adrian I, and further work in the eleventh century. From 1471 to 1503, in which year he was elected Pope Julius II, Cardinal Della Rovere, the nephew of Pope Sixtus IV, effected notable rebuilding. Two popes were elected in this church : Pope John II in 533 and Pope Gregory VII in 1073. The church exterior is nothing special.
San Pietro in Vincoli interior: The Nave has an 18th-century coffered ceiling, frescoed in the center by Giovanni Battista Parodi, portraying the Miracle of the Chains (1706).
The central ceiling fresco of “The Miracle of Chains” by G.B Parodi (1706):
Michelangelo's Moses (completed in 1515) was originally intended to be a part of a massive 47-statue, free-standing funeral monument for Pope Julius II.. Moses is depicted with horns, connoting "the radiance of the Lord", due to the similarity in the Hebrew words for "beams of light" and "horns". This kind of iconographic symbolism was common in early sacred art, and for an artist horns are easier to sculpt than rays of light... Walk from side to side to see various angles:
The fierce power of this remarkable sculpture dominates its setting. People say that you can see the sculptor's profile in the lock of Moses's beard right under his lip, and that the pope's profile is also there somewhere:
The statues of Leah and Rachel flanking Moses were probably completed by Michelangelo's students:
The actual chains that held Saint Peter are also on display. The reputed chains (vincoli) that bound St. Peter during his imprisonment by the Romans in Jerusalem are in a bronze and crystal urn under the main altar:
Other treasures in the church include a 7th-century mosaic of St. Sebastian, in front of the second altar to the left of the main altar, and, by the door, the tomb of the Pollaiuolo brothers, two lesser 15th-century Florentine artists.
Frescos by Giacomo Coppi (1577) in the raised tribune:
Macabre Christian Rome: The contrast between the portrait and the skeletons holding it up could not be more direct, death waits us all:
It is 800- 1000 m. walk from San Pietro in Vincoli to Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore. We'll opt for the more quiet and "green" route which is approx. 900 m. (15 minutes) walk. Head north on Piazza di San Pietro in Vincoli toward Via delle Sette Sale, 20 m. Turn right onto Via delle Sette Sale, 500 m. It is a narrow road between low walls in both of its sides. Be careful with the traffic. Slight left onto Via del Monte Oppio, 160 m.
On your left Chiesa San Martini ai Monti. Continue straight onto Largo Brancaccio, 75 m. Turn left onto Via Merulana and Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore is on your right. In the middle of the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, the square in front of the church, stands a column with a Baroque bronze statue of Mary and child. It was erected in 1614 by pope Paul V in thanksgiving for the remission of the plague. The column was taken from the Basilica of Maxentius at the Roman Forum. The statue was created by the French sculptor Guillaume Berthélot. The obelisk located at the other side of the church, at the Piazza dell'Esquilino, was erected in 1587 by pope Sixtus V as a beacon for pilgrims. It was originally located near the entrance of the Mausoleum of Augustus. A wide staircase behind the obelisk leads to the apse of the church. From here you have a splendid view over the square and its surroundings.
Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of Saint Mary Major) is in the back of the Piazza. The church is located on the Cispius, a summit of the Esquiline Hill. Another option to arrive to the Basilica: Get off at the station Cavour and walk about 300 meters (5-10 minutes) on the Via Cavour. You'll see on your right the giant Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. It is located on Piazza del Esquilino, number 34, some five blocks southwest of the Termini station. According to the 1929 Lateran Treaty, the Basilica is owned by the Holy See and enjoys extraterritorial status. The building is patrolled internally by police agents of Vatican City State, not by Italian police. Saint Mary Major is one of the only four that today hold the title of major Basilica. The other three are Saint Peter (covered in a special blog in Tipter), Saint John Lateran, and Saint Paul outside the Walls - covered in this trip blog. All the other Catholic churches that, either by grant of the Pope or by immemorial custom, hold the title of basilica are minor basilicas. The present church was built under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). The church retains the core of its original structure, despite several additional construction projects and damage by the earthquake of 1348. Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the first churches built in honour of the Virgin Mary, was erected in the immediate aftermath of the Council of Ephesus of 431, which proclaimed Mary Mother of God. Pope Sixtus III built it to commemorate this decision. The building of the basilica was influenced also by seeing Mary as a one who could represent the imperial ideals of classical Rome, bringing together the old Rome and the new Christian Rome. When the Popes returned to Rome after the period of the Avignon Papacy, the buildings of the basilica became a temporary Palace of the Popes due to the deteriorated state of the Lateran Palace. The Papal residence was later moved to the Palace of the Vatican in what is now Vatican City. The basilica was restored, redecorated and extended by various popes, including Eugene III (1145–1153), Nicholas IV (1288–92), Clement X (1670–76), and Benedict XIV (1740–58), who in the 1740s commissioned Ferdinando Fuga to build the present façade and to modify the interior. The seventy-five meter bell tower - the tallest in Rome - was built in 1377, shortly after the popes returned from their exile in Avignon. The pyramidal spire was added much later, in the early sixteenth century.
Sculpture of Philip IV king of Spain in the entrance:
The interior of the Santa Maria Maggiore underwent a broad renovation encompassing all of its altars between the years 1575 and 1630. The Basilica of Saint Mary Major is best known for its magnificent interior which still resembles that of an ancient Basilica. It has a length of almost eighty-six meters and is divided into three naves by thirty-six Ionic columns of marble and granite.
Santa Maria Maggiore - side Narthex:
Another highlight in the Basilica is the beautiful coffered ceiling designed by Giuliano da Sangallo and created in the sixteenth century. It is said to be gilded of gold that was brought from the Americas by Christopher Columbus and presented to pope Alexander VI by the Spanish king:
Above the columns, right below the windows is a row of mosaics from the early fifth century. The mosaics depict thirty-six scenes from the Old Testament of heroes and patriarchs beginning with Abraham. Only 27 of the original 42 mosaic scenes remain. These mosaics are notable because they are somewhat realistic representations, often of miraculous events, with landscapes, blue skies, architecture in a kind of perspective, and modeled figures. At the same time, the forms are outlined and fairly flat. The representation on the left and center is of the capture of Jericho, with the walls tumbling down at the sound of the trumpets and with Rahab at the top of the city gate:
God commands Jacob to leave. He announces his departure to his wives Leah and Rachel:
Crossing of the Arc of the Covenant over the River Jordan:
Conquer of Jericho:
Moses on the commandment of God sweetens the watrers of the Mara. The ruler of the Amalekites blocks the passage of the people of Israel:
The Rose Window (1995) was created by Giovanni Hajnal. It depicts Mary as a link between the Old Testament (represented by the seven-branched Menorah of the Temple of Solomon) and the New Testament (represented by the Chalice of the Eucharist). The contemporary character of the Rose Window has caused some controversy. The frescoes on either side of the window depict scenes from the Life of Mary, and below the frescoes are two of the 5th century nave mosaics.
The frescoes were painted over the windows walled up when the facade was rebuilt in 1743:
The Apse is decorated with a magnificent mosaic created in 1295 by Jacopo Torriti. It depicts the 'Crowning of Mary' with Christ and Mary seated on a throne and accompanied by saints. Pope Nicholas IV, who commissioned the work, is shown kneeling alongside Cardinal Giacomo Colonna:
The Papal Altar at the Apse is covered by an ornate Baldachin. The Baldachin is supported by four ancient columns that were taken from the Villa of Hadrian in Tivoli:
The chapel on the right is the Capella Sistina or Sistine Chapel, named for pope Sixtus V who commissioned its construction. The chapel, designed by Domenico Fontana and built in 1587, holds precious relics and contains the graves of popes Pius V and Sixtus V. The Mannerist interior decoration was completed (1587-9) by a large team of artists, directed by Cesare Nebbia and Giovanni Guerra. While the art biographer, Giovanni Baglione allocates specific works to individual artists, recent scholarship finds that the hand of Nebbia drew preliminary sketches for many, if not all, of the frescoes. Baglione also concedes the roles of Nebbia and Guerra could be summarised as "Nebbia drew, and Guerra supervised the teams".
Magnificent gilded bronze Ciborium. Designed in 1590 by Giovanni Battista Ricci and executed by Ludovico Scalzo, it was designed in the shape of the Sistine Chapel (complete with dome) and is supported by four Angels which were created by Sebastiano Torregiani. Crystal reliquary designed by Giuseppe Valadier said to contain wood from the Holy Crib of the nativity of Jesus Christ:
Tomb of Pope Pius V, by Pierre le Gros the Younger (1698). The reliefs depict Papal Wars such as the "Battle of Lepanto" and "Count Sforza Victorious over the Heretics". The body of the Pope is displayed in the glass-fronted coffin:
Tomb of Pope Sixtus V, by Giovanni Antonio Paracca (1591). Unlike the reliefs of Pius V, the reliefs around Sixtus V show scenes of the Papal States at peace. Sixtus V is depicted with the tiara removed, kneeling in prayer, facing the altar and Ciborium (unlike gestures of blessing of other Papal tombs):
The tomb of Pope Clement IX is located near the entrance of the basilica. It was originally located in the choir, thus the somewhat controversial overly-extended position of the hand and arm (to make the gesture more visible from the higher position). It was designed by Carlo Rainaldi and completed in 1669. The statue of the Pope is by Domenico Guidi, Charity (at left) is by Ercole Ferrata, and Faith is by Cosimo Fancelli:
Coffin of Pius V:
Capella Sistina - the Dome:
The Capella Borghese, also known as the Capella Paolina, was built later, in 1611, by Flaminio Ponzio. The chapel is named after Pope Paul V Borghese. According to legend the Madonna in the Borghese chapel, the 'Salus Populi Romani', was painted by the evangelist Lucas and completed by angels. More likely it was created in the Middle Ages, probably around the thirteenth century. The Popes Paul V and Clement VIII are buried in this chapel.
The column in the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore celebrates the famous icon of the Virgin Mary now enshrined in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica. It is known as Salus Populi Romani, or Health of the Roman People or Salvation of the Roman People, due to a miracle in which the icon helped keep plague from the city. The icon is at least a thousand years old, and according to a tradition was painted from life by St Luke the Evangelist using the wooden table of the Holy Family in Nazareth. The Salus Populi Romani has been a favourite of several popes and acted as a key Mariological symbol. Roman-born Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) celebrated his first Holy Mass there on 1 April 1899. In 1953, the icon was carried through Rome to initiate the first Marian year in Church history. In 1954, the icon was crowned by Pope Pius XII as he introduced a new Marian feast Queenship of Mary. Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis all honoured the Salus Populi Romani with personal visits and liturgical celebrations.
In the centre - picture of Guido Reni:
Statue of King David was created by Nicholas Cordier.:
The statue of High Priest Aaron was executed by Nicholas Cordier:
Double stairways leading down to the Chapel of the Nativity and the Nativity Oratory of Arnolfo di Cambio, where St. Ignatius of Loyola gave his first mass. Note the magnificent marbles used in the construction. These were taken from the Septizodium of Emperor Septimius Severus which was demolished by Domenico Fontana under the orders of Pope Sixtus V to make use of the stone. The existing Nativity Oratory was moved into the crypt when Domenico Fontana built the Chapel.
It houses what may be the oldest Nativity sculptures in existence, a series of high-reliefs by Arnolfo di Cambio, created between 1288-1291 at the order of Pope Nicholas IV. At the base of the stairs, this statue of Pope Pius IX kneels in the Crypt of the Nativity. It was sculpted by Ignazio Jacometti in 1880 and placed in the crypt by Pope Leo XIII:
Our next destination is Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano. You can catch the red line Metro in the direction of Anagnina. Get off at the station San Giovanni (three stations from Termini). A 5-minute walk is required to reach the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.
If you prefer to walk it is 1.5 km walking. Follow this itinerary: Head northeast on Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore toward Via Carlo Alberto. Turn right onto Via Carlo Alberto, 500 m. This road is full with shops of Far East products. You arrive to an extensive garden, not-so-well-kept: Giardini Nicola Calipari. A Roman ruin in the midst of poorly maintained gardens:
Do not miss this interesting sculpture in the gardens:
With your face southward, take the right wing of the garden and walk to the east. Exit the garden to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, opposite Hotel Napoleon. We continue from the right (south) border of the garden (heading EASTWARD) to Via Emanuele Filiberto. On the third cross-road we cross Viale Manzoni. In this cross-road note, on your left (near the cross-lights) the house with its facade with inscriptions and sculptures. THe rest of the houses in the left side (north) of Via Filiberto avenue are nicely restored or refurbished. Along Via Filiberto you find a lot of small Chinese restaurants. All cheap with reasonable quality of food. This aprt of Rome is a typical part of working, low-class population of southern Rome. When you see walls and antiquities opposite your face - TURN RIGHT to Via Domenico Fontana. In the end of this street you'll see an Obelisk. But, you turn LEFT into a huge square - Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano.
The Lateran Obelisk, in the Piazza, is the tallest in Rome, and the largest standing Egyptian obelisk in the world. The red granite weighs 455 tons and stands 32.18 meters tall (plus base and cross). Originally erected in Karnak, c. 1430 BC, it was brought to Rome by Constantius II in 357 AD:
Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano: The oldest church in Rome and the mother of all Roman Churches. San Giovanni in Laterano was founded in the early 4th c. (312-313). It is the Cathedral of Rome and first among the four Papal Basilicas. The Popes lived in the Lateran Palace until the early 14th century, when Clement V transferred the Papacy to Avignon, France.
Open Church: 07.00 - 18.30 daily. Baptistry (06 6988 6452) 07.30 - 12.30, 16.00 - 18.30 Tue-Sat; 09.00 - 12.30, 16.00 - 18.30 Sun. Cloister 09.00 - 18.00 daily. Museum 09.00 - 13.00 Mon-Sat. Like most of Rome's churches, there is no entry fee.
This fabulous Basilica is a "must see" in Rome. Although it's very popular, it's not overrun with tourists. Superb art all around: sculptures, paintings, mosaics, architecture. It is very, very large - one of those places in which you marvel at the abilities of the old world architects and even builders who somehow managed to put such a massive structure together. The walls are covered with frescoes everywhere, precious artefacts of extremely high quality. Astounding place!
Along with the Lateran palace, it was the site of the original Papal headquarters until the move across the river to St Peter's and the Vatican in the 14th century. Constantine's second wife, Fausta, gave the plot of land to Pope Melchiades to build the papal residence and church in 313. There are few traces of the of the original basilica, which was done in by fire, earthquake and barbarians. It has been heavily restored and rebuilt. The façade with its 15 huge statues of Christ, the two Johns (Baptist and Evangelist) and 12 Doctors of the Church, is part of the 1735 rebuilding by Alessandro Galilei.
Because the Pope is also the Bishop of Rome, this church is Rome's 'official' cathedral (this is because this church is the seat of the Bishop's residence).
Ancient Roman Bronze Doors:
Roman Statue of Constantine in the Portico:
One of the things that you'll enjoy about visiting this church is its size - you can walk freely and at your leisure without anyone invading your space, so it's a nice break from the madness of Centro Storico... Its design is outstanding and the marble work on the floors is magnificent along with the whole design of the cathedral. Inside it is not as dark and heavy as many ancient cathedrals and with the light streaming in, it highlights the statues in the niches in the walls. You easily spend an hour here enjoying the Cathedral. The interior bears the stamp of Borromini, who transformed it in 1646; for centuries he was derided for encasing the original columns in stucco, though experts now believe that the ancient supports had been replaced by nondescript ones in the 15th century. A few treasures from earlier times survive: a much restored 13th-century mosaic in the apse, a fragment of a fresco attributed to Giotto (hidden behind the first column on the right) showing Pope Boniface VIII announcing the first Holy Year in 1300, and the Gothic Baldacchino over the main altar.
The central Nave and Baldachino. The Baldachino was designed by Giovanni da Stefano in 1367. It stands over the Papal Altar and by tradition the relic chamber houses the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul. Statues of Peter and Paul are above each of the columns. The apse behind the Baldachino contains the Papal Cathedral and early christian mosaics:
Barna da Siena’s frescoes on the Baldachino, with sculptures of Saints Peter and Paul:
Nave Apostles: In the rear of the nave, there are some of Borromini’s niches. These niches were left empty for decades until Pope Clement XI sponsored a competition in 1703 to select designs for larger than life statues of the Apostles. These sculptures were created by some of the most prominent Baroque artists. St Matthew by Camillo Rusconi:
Relief - The Crossing of the Red Sea by M. Anguier:
Fresco in the South Transept - The Conversion of Constantine:
Altar of the Blessed Sacrament erected by Pope Clement VIII:
The Last Supper - Altar of the Blessed Sacrament:
The Apse mosaics are a composite from several eras. The dark section at the apex of the vault depicting Christ surrounded by nine seraphim dates from the 4th or 5th century, and was carefully preserved and restored in 1880 when the apse was enlarged to accommodate pontifical functions. The central section from the 6th c. shows the crux gammata, a jeweled cross above which flies a dove representing the Holy Spirit. From the mouth of the dove flow the four rivers of the Gospels, from which stags and sheep drink. The rivers flow into the Jordan, which symbolizes baptism. Between the streams is the City of Jerusalem, and in the city, a Phoenix (symbolizing rebirth) is perched on the Tree of Life. St. Peter, St. Paul, and an armed Angel are guarding the city:
To the left of the Apse are Mary, with her hand on the head of Nicholas IV (kneeling at her feet), who was responsible for repairing and altering this section of the mosaics (13th c.). To his left are St. Francis of Assisi, St. Peter, and St. Paul:
The ceiling of San Giovanni in Laterano. The design of the gilded coffered ceiling is attributed to Michelangelo. It was begun in 1562 by Daniel da Volterra and Pirro Ligorio under Pius IV and completed under St. Pius V. It was restored by Pius VI in the late 1700s, and contains three Papal Coats of Arms (Popes Pius IV, St. Pius V and Pius VI):
The organ was designed by Luca Blasi of Perugia in 1598, with angels, cherubs and reliefs by Giovanni Battista Montano. The central pipe is 8 feet tall and weighs over 400 pounds. The central pipe in each group of five is twisted:
Monument of Leo XIII. The Pope is standing in benediction, flanked by a statue of a worker on the left (Leo XIII addressed the condition of the working class and workers rights during his Papacy) and a statue of Faith on the right:
Lateran Lancellotti Chapel. Stucco roses created by Filippo Carcani in 1685. Carcani was a pupil of Bernini and Ferrata. He created the prototypical Baroque-Rococo stuccoed roses:
Chapel of the Crucifixion. On the right: Pope Boniface VIII:
Off the left aisle is the 13th-century cloister, with delicate twisted columns and fine cosmatesque work by the Vassalletto family. A small museum off the cloister contains Papal vestments and some original manuscripts of music by Palestrina.
St. John Baptist. The wooden statue of St. John the Baptist in the Confessio (the Crypt under the High Altar):
It is 10 minutes walk to the Metro station of San Giovanni in Laternao (250 m.). With your back to the Basilica - walk straight and turn right to arrive to the Metro (out of the walls). Head east toward Piazza di Porta San Giovanni, 45 m. Slight right onto Piazza di Porta San Giovanni, 65 m. Slight left onto Piazzale Appio, 41 m. Turn left onto Viale Castrense. On your way you'll see the ancient walls and Porta di San Giovanni (there are construction works for the third line of the Metro). You may stop shopping in COIN.
Catch the Metro (Line B, BLUE) and go in the direction of Laurentina. Get off at Basilica S. Paolo (four stations from the Coliseum). From the Metro station of San Paolo, TURN LEFT TWICE, then turn RIGHT - and you'll see the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls in front of you. The Basilica's Campanile (clock tower) was originally built in the eleventh century near the front facade. The current tower was built in 1860 toward the east of the Basilica, near the Apse. It holds seven bells, five of which are still original:
The Basilica was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine I over the burial place of Saint Paul, where it was said that, after the Apostle's execution, his followers erected a memorial, called a cella memoriae. This first edifice was expanded under Valentinian I in the 370s. In 386, Emperor Theodosius I began erecting a much larger and more beautiful basilica with a nave and four aisles with a transept; the work including the mosaics was not completed until Leo I's pontificate (440–461). In the 5th century it was larger than the Old St. Peter's Basilica. Under Gregory the Great (590–604) the basilica was extensively modified. The pavement was raised to place the altar directly over Paul's tomb. A confession permitted access to the Apostle's sepulcher. As it lay outside the Aurelian Walls, the basilica was damaged in the 9th century during the Saracen invasions. Consequently, Pope John VIII (872–882) fortified the basilica, the monastery, and the dwellings of the peasantry, forming the town of Joannispolis (Italian: Giovannipoli) which existed until 1348, when an earthquake totally destroyed it. The graceful cloister of the monastery was erected between 1220 and 1241. From 1215 until 1964 it was the seat of the Latin Patriarch of Alexandria. On 15 July 1823 a fire, started through the negligence of a workman who was repairing the lead of the roof, resulted in the almost total destruction of the basilica which, alone of all the churches of Rome, had preserved its primitive character for 1435 years. It was re-opened in 1840, and reconsecrated 1855 with the presence of Pope Pius IX and fifty cardinals. Completing the works of reconstruction took longer, however, and many countries made their contributions. The work on the principal façade, looking toward the Tiber, was completed by the Italian Government, which declared the church a national monument. On 23 April 1891 the explosion of the gunpowder magazine at Forte Portuense destroyed the stained glass windows.
The covered portico that precedes the façade is a Neo-classicist addition of the 19th-century reconstruction:
The 20th-century door includes the remains of the leaves from the original portal, executed by Staurachius of Chios around 1070 in Constantinople, with scenes from the New and Old Testament. On the right is the Holy Door, which is opened only during the Jubilees:
The Nave's 80 columns and its stucco-decorated ceiling are from the 19th century:
The Gothic Baldachin in marble at the high altar was created by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1285. Below the altar is the confessio, with the grave of Saint Paul:
The mosaics of the Apse, work by Pietro Cavallini, were mostly lost in the 1823 fire; only a few traces were incorporated in the reconstruction. The 5th-century mosaics of the triumphal arch are original: an inscription in the lower section attest they were done at the time of Leo I, paid by Galla Placidia. The subject portrays the Apocalypse of John, with the bust of Christ in the middle flanked by the 24 doctors of the church, surmounted by the flying symbols of the four Evangelists. St. Peter and St. Paul are portrayed at the right and left of the arch, the latter pointing downwards (probably to his tomb):
Another highlight is the Venetian mosaic in the apse. It was created in 1226 for Honorius III and replaced the original mosaic from the fifth century. The apse mosaic was made by Venetian artists. Christ is flanked by the Apostles Peter, Paul, Andrew and Luke. In the lower zone are Apostles carrying scrolls with the text of Gloria in excelsis. Beneath Christ is a throne with the instruments of the Passion and a cross. In the center of the cross is another depiction of the Teaching Christ. The figure near Christ's feet is Pope Honorius III (1216-1227), who ordered the mosaic:
The triumphal arch across the Nave rests on Ionic columns and is embellished with a mosaic from the fifth century that was restored after the fire. At the center of the arch, in a circle, is a stern looking Christ. Birds (representing the four evangelists), angels, twenty-four elders and, below, the saints Peter and Paul, all flank the figure of Christ.
Frescoes of saints in San Paolo fuori le Mura:
One of the most interesting items that escaped the disastrous fire is the five-and-a-half meter tall paschal candlestick, created around 1170 by Nicolo di Angelo and Pietro Vassalletto. It is decorated with carvings that represent scenes from the bible. It looks really crowded with numerous figures crammed into a small area. At the foot of the candlestick are mythical figures, half-human, half-animal:
Altar of Conversion:
In the old Basilica each Pope had his portrait in a frieze extending above the columns separating the four aisles and naves. A 19th-century version can be seen now. The columns are new; the original ones were all taken from ancient Roman temples. They support a wall with above a series of so-called Tondi: circular paintings of popes. Unfortunately most of these paintings were damaged by the fire of 1823. They have all been restored but some of the inscriptions are lost forever. All 267 popes, starting with saint Peter, are shown. There are now very few Tondi still available, and according to legend, the world will end when the last Tondo is filled:
Saint Lorenzo Chapel - The Last Supper:
Once you are done with the Basilica di San Paulo Fuori le Mura, go back to the Metro station and travel in the opposite direction, to Rebibbia.