It was here, very late in the day, that we met up with the Salvatorian pilgrim group from several states in Australia. Together we explored St Paul’s. Under the altar in this place is the tomb of St Paul, the writer of all those New Testament epistles, himself.
There are a lot of important people in my life named Paul or Pauline; the most important of them being my Dad. So this was a must-visit place for me, to pray for them.
Exterior of St Paul's
The colourful mosaics show where the church part of the basilica starts. In front of the church part is a garden surrounded by columns. It is called an atrium. If you recall the way the temple in Jerusalem was laid out, there were inner courts for priests and men, and outer courts for women and gentiles. In a similar way, the church part was for the baptised, and the atrium was for the un-baptised and for those doing penance for serious sins. At the Easter Vigil there was great rejoicing when the newly baptised, and those who had completed their penance, entered into the church part to participate in the Eucharist.
Statue of St Paul, in the middle of the atrium
Although this famous statue of St Paul is the focal point of the atrium; it is surprisingly difficult to get a good photo of it. This is the closest I got to the actual statue.
Left Transept, Interior of St Paul's
Looking from the end of the nave towards the left transept. A little of the apse can be seen, and all the altar with its elaborate canopy. That ornate column is the paschal candle stand. Around that column are carved scenes from the life of Jesus. The paschal candle is lit at the Easter Vigil, and every day of the Easter season ending in Pentecost. It symbolises the presence of the risen Lord Jesus with us.
Nave of St Paul's
View down the nave and towards the apse.
On the left-hand side is a statue of St Peter, and on the right-hand side is a statue of St Paul. The apse itself is covered in beautiful mosaics. The curved part of the apse has a very large depiction of Jesus as ruler and judge, flanked by St Luke and St Paul on the left, and by St Peter and St Andrew on the right. With all the columns on both sides of the nave, it has the traditional early basilica shape – even though it has been though fire and earthquake, and has been enlarged, restored and reconstructed many times.
Look through the columns on the right-hand side, you should see a coloured part illuminated by light.
Here’s a close-up of that illuminated part. Around the upper part of the walls in this basilica every pope that has ever been, has, in chronological order, a representative medallion. The illuminated one is Pope Francis because he is the present pope; and you can see the un-illuminated Pope Benedict XVI beside him. Whoever is pope after Pope Francis will have their portrait fill the empty medallion to the left of Pope Francis.
Vincent Cavanagh #bbwyd
30 Jul 2023, 5.56pm Italy | 31 Jul 2023, 1.56am Sydney
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