Basilica Papale San Paolo Fuori le Mure, or Saint Paul Outside the Walls, is one of Rome's most important churches. It is one of the four papal churches along with Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Rome's cathedral of Saint John Lateran, and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
Constantine had a basilica built above the grave of Saint Paul, marked by a memorial stone in a Roman burial ground two kilometers outside Rome's walls. The original basilica was consecrated in 324. Through the years, the Basilica of Saint Paul continued to be a popular pilgrimage destination and additions to the building made it the largest basilica in Rome until the construction of Saint Peter's Basilica in 1626. In 1823 a fire destroyed the church but it was immediately reconstructed in its original form using all pieces that remained intact and the mosaics on the facade were created. About 100 years later, the entrance portico with 150 columns was added.
In the 13th century many art works were added, including the magnificent mosaic work that dominates the front of the church over the altar. The church's most important relic is a piece of the chain believed to have been used on Saint Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome, on display on a small altar above his tomb - Continue to page 2 to see a photo.