By Carmen Elena Villa
ROME, JUNE 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- After celebrating vespers for Tuesday’s feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, Benedict XVI inaugurated renovated sections of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
The renovation program was undertaken already a few years ago, in the context of preparations for the 2008-2009 Pauline Jubilee Year.
In addition to new visibility for St. Paul’s tomb, there are also new structures and services for pilgrims.
In the archaeological complex, there are Corinthian capitals for viewing, as well as remains of the former basilica, destroyed by fire in 1823.
A building now stands next door with a cafeteria, an area for the sale of books, objects and religious souvenirs, as well as a storeroom for 4,000 chairs used for ceremonies in the basilica.
The basement has given protection to the remains of buildings of the Roman and Medieval periods, as well as to elements of the three-kilometer (1.8-mile) colonnade that began at the Cestius pyramid.
It also houses remains found recently in excavations carried out by the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology and the Vatican Museums, which are now in an area that can be easily visited.
In addition, a long gallery of video displays was inaugurated Monday, which in a didactic manner and in 10 protected showcases, illustrate the history of the basilica and monastic complex of St. Paul.
The gallery also houses a sarcophagus found after the 1823 fire and that up to now was kept in the Vatican Museums. The gallery will be connected with the museum complex, which includes the cloister, the Benedictine abbey and the art gallery as well as the protected archaeological areas.