Station Church Day 48: The pope was ill and wasn't told of the fire that destroyed the basilica.
Aleteia invites you to a virtual Lenten pilgrimage through Rome’s 42 station churches: one church per day, from February 17 to April 11.
At one time, a speech by Paul from the Acts of the Apostles was read on the Tuesday after Easter. That’s why today the station church is St. Paul Outside the Walls.
The present building was erected after the fire of 1823, but it faithfully reflects the structure of the Constantinian basilica. The fire that destroyed the ancient basilica occurred on the night between July 15 and 16, 1823, probably due to the carelessness of some workers who were working on the roof of the basilica: a coal was probably left burning, which started the fire during the night.
The news immediately went around Rome. Only one person remained in the dark: the pope. Pius VII was seriously ill, and was not informed. He died a month later without ever having heard anything about the fire.
The reconstruction of the basilica was begun by Leo XII. For the undertaking, the pope appealed to the generosity of the faithful: in the encyclical “Ad plurimas” he invited everyone to donate according to their possibilities to help support the rebuilding. This invitation was also accepted by many heads of state, including Tsar Nicholas I.
The new St. Paul’s Basilica was consecrated by Pius IX on December 10, 1854. However, the work continued: in 1874 the mosaics on the facade were completed, while in 1928 the courtyard surrounded by a colonnade was added. The basilica is 430 feet (131 meters) long, 213 feet (65 meters) wide and almost 98 feet (30 meters) high.
Repent and be baptizedevery one of youin the name of Jesus Christ…Acts 2:38
* In collaboration with the Office for Social Communications of the Vicariate of Rome.