The quadriportico is a monumental architectural structure measuring 70 m by 70. Visitors walking through it encounter 150 columns of white granite from Montòrfano. It is the work Guglielmo Calderini and was finished in 1928.
The CENTRAL DOOR is the work of Antonio Maraini (18861963). It was made between 1929 and 1931, is of bronze and is in fact a double door. It weighs around 8 tons and measures 7.48 m in height and 3.35 m in breadth. The iconographic design that was proposed by Abbot Ildelphonsus Schuster, aims to celebrate the preaching of the two apostles of Rome within the framework of a cross. The upright of the cross extends the full height of the door and is embellished with silver vine branches. Within the branches are ovals of lapis lazuli containing busts of the twelve apostles. On the cross section are the symbols of the four evangelists. Scenes from the lives of Peter and Paul are portrayed on the two doors; among these scenes is the well-known story of the “Domine quo vadis”.
The STATUE AT THE CENTRE AND THE SYMBOLISM OF THE SWORD The work of Giuseppe Obici around the year 1850, the statue represents St Paul with a long sword in his right hand. Why is he always portrayed with a sword? Because it was the instrument of his martyrdom, but also because it symbolises the Word of God of which Paul was a herald and tireless preacher (Ephesians 6:17; cf. Hebrews 4:12). In his left hand he holds the book of the epistles that make him the first and foremost theologian of Christianity.
The STATUE OF ST LUKE In the four corners of the great quadriportico are pedestals only one of which is occupied by a statue. It dates from 1893 and is the work of Francesco Fabi-Altini. It represents St Luke, companion of Paul. Author of the Acts of the Apostles it was he who recounted the events concerning the life and mission of St Paul.
The HOLY DOOR (3.71 m by 1.82 m) During the Jubilee Year 2000, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray blessed a new door of gilded bronze to serve as the external part of the Holy Door. The three horizontal panels express the three years of preparation leading up to the Jubilee proclaimed by Pope St John Paul II: the years dedicated to the merciful Father, to the Holy Spirit, main agent of evangelisation, and to the Son the Redeemer. At the bottom of the door are the Latin words: Ad sacram Pauli cunctis venientibus aedem – sit pacis donum perpetuoque salus; this is a blessing on all who enter the basilica: may all who come into this holy temple of Paul receive the gift of peace and eternal salvation.
THE MEANING OF THE MOSAIC ON THE FAÇADE On the façade there are various scenes, the work of the Vatican school of mosaics, based on designs by Consoni and Agricola (1854-1874). Fragments of an earlier mosaic by Cavallini (13th century) saved from the fire, were used to create a new mosaic in the transept (see section 3).
1. In the lower section there are four great figures. They are the major prophets of the Old Testament: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, symbolizing the 4000 years that preceded the coming of the Messiah.
2. In the middle section, the centre of the scene is dominated by the figure of the sacrificial Lamb whose death causes the waters of salvation to flow to the four quarters of the world. Thus is redemption made available to all nations. On either side stand the two symbolic cities, on the left Bethlehem and on the right Jerusalem, where, respectively, Christ began and completed his earthly life.
3. The figure of Christ is enthroned in the tympanum at the summit. At his side, in a slightly lower position, are Sts Peter and Paul, patrons of the city of Rome. While the earlier mosaic had Paul on Christ’s right, the current one made at the time of the proclamation of papal infallibility at the first Vatican Council (1870), places Peter there: this is an example of the way in which art may reflect a doctrinal event.