San Sebastiano fuori le mura

San Sebastiano fuori le mura, façade (1612) by Flaminio Ponzio, assisted by Giovanni Vasanzio[1]

San Sebastiano fuori le mura (Saint Sebastian outside the walls), or San Sebastiano ad Catacumbas (Saint Sebastian at the Catacombs), is a basilica in Rome, central Italy. Up to the Great Jubilee of 2000, San Sebastiano was one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, and many pilgrims still favor the traditional list.


Built originally in the first half of the 4th century,[2] the basilica is dedicated to St. Sebastian, a popular Roman martyr of the 3rd century. The name ad catacumbas refers to the catacombs of St Sebastian, over which the church was built, while "fuori le mura" refers to the fact that the church is built outside the Aurelian Walls, and is used to differentiate the basilica from the church of San Sebastiano al Palatino on the Palatine Hill.

According to the founding tradition,[3] in 258, during the Valerian persecutions, the catacombs were temporarily used as place of sepulture of two other saints martyred in Rome, Peter and Paul,[4] whose remains were later transferred to the two basilicas carrying their names: whence the original dedication of the church, Basilica Apostolorum ("Basilica of the Apostles"). The dedication to Sebastian dates to the 9th century.[5]

Sebastian's remains were moved here around 350. They were transferred to St. Peter's in 826, fearing a Saracen assault: the latter, in fact, materialized, and the church was destroyed. The building was refounded under Pope Nicholas I (858–867), while the martyr's altar was reconsecrated by Honorius III (1216–1227), by request of the Cistercians, who had received the place. In the 13th century the arcade of the triple nave was walled in.

The current edifice is largely a 17th-century construction, commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1609 from Flaminio Ponzio and, after Ponzio's death in 1613, entrusted to Giovanni Vasanzio, who completed it.


Catacombs of San Sebastiano – entrance detail

The statue of St Sebastian at the altar in the first chapel on the left is by Giuseppe Giorgetti. The Chapel of Relics, located directly across the nave, houses a stone allegedly imprinted with the footprints of Jesus related to the episode of "Quo vadis?" in the apocryphal Acts of Peter; and one of the arrows which struck St Sebastian together with part of the column to which he was tied during the martyrdom. Noteworthy is the Albani Chapel (built 1716)[6] and designed by Carlo Maratta, Alessandro Specchi, Filippo Barigioni and Carlo Fontana; commissioned by Pope Clement XI; and dedicated to Pope Fabian. Fabian had been Bishop of Rome during the persecution of Decius. Flanking the altar, busts of Saints Peter and Paul by Nicolò Cordier recall the first dedication of the basilica.


See also


  1. The granite columns were reused from the 13th-century reconstruction. (TCI, Roma e dintorni).
  2. According to Touring Club Italiano, Roma e dintorni (1965) p. 395.
  3. "Secondo la tradizione", Touring Club Italiano, Roma e dintorni (1965) p. 395.
  4. "The Basilica of St. Sebastian Outside the Walls",
  5. Touring Club Italiano, Roma e dintorni, eo. loc.
  6. About 1716 according to TCI Roma e dintorni.


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Coordinates: 41°51′20″N 12°30′56″E / 41.85556°N 12.51556°E / 41.85556; 12.51556

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