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The Chains of Saint Paul Processed through the Streets of Rome
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The relics of the Holy Chains of St. Paul in their reliquary modeled after the ciborium of the tomb of Saint Paul. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

On June 29, 2024, in the heat of the summer evening, the Holy Chains of the Apostle Saint Paul were processed through the streets surrounding the Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls to commemorate the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

The Basilica of Saint Paul’s Outside the Walls is built over the tomb of Saul of Tarsus, a former persecutor of Christians who later converted and became the Apostle to the Gentiles, ultimately being martyred in Rome.

The statue of Saint Paul carried in procession by members of various Roman confraternities and parishioners of the basilica. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

As a Roman citizen, Saint Paul was beheaded rather than crucified, as was the fate of Saint Peter. Tradition holds that his head bounced three times, resulting in three springs at the site now known as the Church of Tre Fontane (Three Fountains). He was buried at the site where the basilica now stands.

The statue of Saint Paul in the courtyard of the Pauline basilica. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

The Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls is one of the four major papal basilicas in Rome. Cardinal Harvey has served as the Archpriest of the basilica since 2012, and the complex also houses a Benedictine Abbey.

Father Abbot Donato Ogliari OSB joins the procession in red stole in honor of the martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

The tradition of processing the Holy Chains of Saint Paul dates back to the pontificate of Pope Saint Gregory the Great (590-640). The chains that once bound the Apostle are carried through the neighborhood surrounding the basilica.

Residents of the neighborhood come out on their balconies to partake in the procession making the sign of the Cross as the Holy Chains pass. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

After World War II, the procession was revived in 1949, beginning at the nearby church of St. Benedict and making its way down via Ostiense to the Pauline basilica. The elderly residents of the neighborhood still remember the hymn written in 1951 in honor of the saint.

The monks process through the Basilica with the Holy Chains to begin the procession. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

The procession has returned to its former glory with a new route since 2019. It begins and ends in the basilica. The Abbot places the chains in a processional reliquary modeled after the ciborium designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, which marks the tomb of Saint Paul. The monks then carry the Holy Chains through the basilica and its courtyard.

This year, for the first time, members of various Roman confraternities and an archconfraternity carried the Holy Chains and a statue of Saint Paul through the neighboring streets.

Members from an archconfraternity and confraternities receive the Holy Chains in their reliquary from the monks of the Abbey. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

During the procession, participants prayed litanies to Saint Paul, asking for his intercession and meditating upon his titles, such as "Apostle of the Father’s Mercy," "Preacher of Truth," and "Conquered by the Love of Christ."

The procession included litanies and meditations upon titles of Saint Paul. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

The Abbot and monks were joined by representatives from the local municipality, the metropolitan police, the Carabinieri, and the Guardia di Finanza, along with numerous priests, religious sisters, confraternities, and lay faithful.

The servers with candles and crucifix lead the procession through the streets of the neighborhood. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

The one-hour-long procession concluded on the porch of the basilica. The marching band from Frascati played a hymn followed by the Italian National Anthem. The Abbot then took the Holy Chains from the reliquary and imparted a Solemn Blessing.

The Procession ends on the porch of the Basilica and the Abbot gives a Solemn Blessing Credit: Daniel Ibáñez / EWTN Vatican

Afterward, the Abbot provided an opportunity for Cardinal Harvey, the monks, the priests, and those who carried the Holy Chains and the statue of Saint Paul to reverence the relic with a kiss before returning the chains to their reliquary.

The Abbot presents the Holy Chains to Cardinal Harvey and the Cardinal kisses the chains. Credit: Jacob Stein / Crux Stationalis
 

This article was originally published on ChurchPOP


Author Name

Jacob Stein, from Omaha, Nebraska, has a bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas — Angelicum, in Rome. He is presently completing his licentiate in Dogmatic Theology at the Angelicum. He is well-versed in the craft of social media content creation, known for his online apostolate of Crux Stationalis: an exploration of Rome through the eyes of the Catholic Faith

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