St. Paul's within the Walls: Rome, Italy

By Shipps, Harry W. | Anglican and Episcopal History, June 2003 | Go to article overview

St. Paul's within the Walls: Rome, Italy


Shipps, Harry W., Anglican and Episcopal History


St. Paul's Within the Walls

Rome, Italy

On the corner of Via Napoli and the broad Via Nazionale in central Rome stands the impressive St. Paul's Within the Walls Church. Signs and literature tell the visitor that this in an Anglican-Episcopal congregation. S Maria Maggiore is but a short walk to the southeast, and some distance away on the Babunio is the smaller All Saints Anglican Church, an overseas parish of the Church of England.

Known also as the "American Church," St. Paul's was constructed in 1873 according to the designs of G. E. Street. A brilliant example of romanesque architecture, the building and tower are readily visible from nearby streets. Surrounding the rose window on the church façade is a symbolic mosaic of the four evangelists by George William Breck (1863-1920), and over the entrance is his mosaic of St. Paul preaching the gospel.

The church's remarkable mosaics account for the Italian government's designation of St. Paul's as a national monument. Designed by the preRaphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones, the mosaics in the apse and choir portray the annunciation. The scenes include Mary at a desert spring outside the town walls; Christ in Glory surrounded by angels, archangels and saints, with streams of living water issuing from His feet; and Christ suspended with arms outstretched before the green-leafed tree of knowledge, with Adam and Eve on each side. On the opposite, or west wall, of the church is Breck's mosaic of the Nativity. In a city of notable landmarks, this is a building truly worthy of its setting.

Sunday liturgies begin in the morning at 8:30 with a Rite I said eucharist, followed at 10:30 by Rite II sung eucharist. The eucharist is celebrated in Spanish at 1:00 P.M. for a growing Latin American community. The church holds a mid-week eucharist on Wednesdays. The one priest on the staff is the rector, who is joined by a lay pastor for the congregation's Latin American ministry. Both have daily office hours. A nursery is available on Sundays, and a youth group meets following the 10:30 liturgy. Worshipers arriving for the choral eucharist are greeted at the narthex and given bulletins and liturgy booklets. A brief introduction to the Anglican Communion is included in the bulletin, and on this day a notice that the holy eucharist "is offered in loving memory" of a parishioner who recently died. The nave is furnished with cathedral chairs rather than pews. A visitor particularly notes the spaciousness of the building and colorful surround of mosaics.

A considerable number of Africans, Asians, and other non-Anglos comprise the congregation of somewhat less than one hundred persons. Most are informally dressed with the exception of a few African women who wear colorful native attire. The congregation includes a number of children, who seem comfortable in the liturgy. The expanse of the building alleviates the warmth and humidity of the September day.

The liturgy for this occasion is fully printed in the booklet along with service music. Hymns are from The Hymnal 1982 of the Episcopal Church. The Book of Common Prayer, along with an Italian edition of the eucharist, is in the chair racks. At the appointed hour the procession proceeds down the right side aisle and up the center to the sanctuary. The good acoustics enhance the singing of the opening hymn, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross." The procession consists of vested choir of six men and six women followed by the lay assistants-one woman and two men in alb with amice and girdle-and the celebrant.

The choir is seated on the lectern side, outside the sanctuary. On the opposite side is the impressive pulpit, just in front of the organ. A handsome freestanding altar, with two large candles, occupies the spacious sanctuary area. Vested in white chasuble with seasonal green orphreys, the celebrant is a visiting priest serving during the rector's recovery from surgery. He and his assistants are seated in chairs. …

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