Malankara World

Virtual Travel

A Virtual Tour of St. Paul-Outside-the Walls [Burial Place of St. Paul]

Click below for a 360 degree tour of the Basilica, including a view of the apostle's tomb.


In 61 A.D. Paul arrived in Rome to undergo judgment. Here he was beheaded [1] between 65 and 67 A.D. His body was buried two miles away from the place of his martyrdom, in the sepulchral area along the Ostiense Way, owned by a devout Christian woman named Lucina, which was part of a pre-existent burial place [2]. Even though he was a Christian, it was possible to bury the Apostle Paul in a Roman necropolis, due to his Roman citizenship. Shortly thereafter, his tomb would become a place of worship and veneration. Upon it was erected a cella memoriae or tropaeum, namely a memorial, where during the first centuries of persecution many of the faithful and pilgrims would go to pray, drawing the strength necessary to carry out the work of evangelization of this great missionary [3].


At 1.37 meters below the present Papal Altar lies a marble tombstone (2.12 m. x 1.27 m.), bearing the Latin inscription PAULO APOSTOLO MART (Apostle Paul, martyr)... It is composed of various pieces. On the piece where PAULO is written there are three holes, a round and two square ones [4].


It is above a massive sarcophagus, measuring 2.55 meters long, 1.25 meters wide and 0.97 high, that the “Altars of Confession” were later placed. During recent work in the Basilica, a large window-like opening was made just below the Papal Altar, in order to allow the faithful to see the Apostle’s tomb.

1) Outside the Aurelian Walls, along the Ostiense Way, undoubtedly at Aquas Salvias.

2) The excavations confirm the presence of a cemetery under and around the Basilica (burial niches and underground graves) for poor people and free slaves.

3) Gaius, the Presbyter, “who lived when Zephyrinus was bishop of Rome from 199 to 217”, as quoted by Eusebius in the third century, was the first one to tell about his visit to the memorials of the Apostles. “Gaius”, Eusebius writes “In a written dialog with Proclus, the leader of the Phrygians, says the following about the places where the sacred relics of the apostles mentioned [Peter and Paul] are deposited: ‘But I can point out the tropaia of the Apostles; for if you go to the Vatican or the Ostian Way, you will find the tropaia of those who founded this Church’”.

4) The circular hole, which does not modify the inscription, is without a doubt from contemporary times. A small pipeline connects it to the tomb, which brings to mind the Roman custom, later to become also Christian, of pouring perfumes inside the sarcophagus. This 4th to 5th century marble tombstone is most likely evidence of religious veneration prior to the great construction of 386.

Source: The Vatican Web Site

See Also:

A Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican City
A spectacular view of the Sistine Chapel via Virtual Reality.

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