This fragment of marble from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls was salvaged after the tragic fire which destroyed the basilica in 1823.
Reconstruction of the Basilica began in 1825. This fragment was discovered in 1823. There are engravings on each side:
“St. Paul’s was burned on July 15, 1823.”
“This was found on the 24 of November (or September–it isn’t clear), 1823.”
The other engravings are, “Rome,” and “Hortense.”
Father Richard Kunst, Curator of this Collection, attests to the uniqueness of this artifact. “I have never seen anything like this connected to St. Paul’s Basilica. It is truly a remarkable addition to this Collection.”
A Note about Pope Pius VII & St. Paul Outside the Walls
In the summer of 1823, Pius VII broke his leg and was unable to recover from the wound. Two weeks earlier, a fire had devastated his beloved church, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, the abbey where he had both studied and taught in his younger years. He was not even told of the fire and died in August. He was buried in a mausoleum erected by Thorwaldsen in St. Peter’s Basilica.
St Paul Outside-the-Walls is one of four major Papal Basilicas in Rome, along with St John Lateran, St Peter’s and St Mary Major.
After the fire, Pope Leo XII (1823 – 1829) appealed for donations to help rebuild the church in exactly the same style.
The Basilica was reopened in 1840 and re-consecrated in 1855 in the presence of Pope Pius IX.
The redecoration was helped by contributions from all over the world, including pillars of alabaster from Egypt and malachite and lapis lazuli from Russia.
The Italian Government funded the work on the façade and declared the Church a national monument.
The Basilica had been founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine over the burial place of St Paul. In the sixth century the building was modified to enable the altar to be placed directly over Paul’s tomb.
The Basilica, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is outside the territory belonging to the Vatican although it is owned by them.
St. Paul’s Basilica Before & After the Fire of 1823
Copper Engravings from the Pontificate of Pius VI
An Artifact in This Collection
The artifact featured here is one of the earliest picture books created in the late 1700’s. It contains 100 copper engravings.
Among these engravings is one of St. Paul Outside the Walls prior to the 1823 fire when it burned to the ground. For that reason alone, the book is of special interest and value.
The other photos are of the Basilica today.