Chapel of St Paul
This Chapel is dedicated to St Paul,
the 'Apostle of the Gentiles'
The ceiling shows the Damascus journey
and the tent decoration
St Paul, together with St Peter, founded the Church at Rome. As a young man he was a ruthless persecutor of the Christian faith. After his conversion, he became the great missionary apostle of the young Church. His work and his journeys are described in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the letters he wrote to the Christian communities around the Mediterranean.
St Paul was a tent-maker, and the ceiling of the chapel is decorated to represent a tent. On the back wall is portrayed the story of his conversion. Travelling from Jerusalem (on the right) to Damascus (on the left), Paul is blinded by a great light, and is addressed by the Risen Christ. Beneath the scene the Latin inscription records Christ's words: "Get up, and go into the city, and you will be told what to do" (Acts 9:6).
On the right hand on the chapel Paul is shown shipwrecked off Malta (in Latin, MELITA). The mosaic over the arch opposite represents the riddle of Samson (Judges 14:14): bees around the head of a lion represent sweetness coming forth from strength (in Latin DE FORTI EGRESSA EST DULCEDO) - a reference to Paul's good works follows his former bitterness towards Christianity. Also depicted is a basket with ropes attached, recalling Paul's escape from Damascus when he was lowered over the wall in a basket (Acts 9:25)
Over the altar, Paul is shown with his traditional sword - a symbol both of his eloquence in preaching the Word of God, and of his death. The grey marble on the walls comes from near Athens, where Paul himself preached (Acts 17:15). Above, Christ is depicted with St Peter and St Paul, and the Latin inscription translates "The Lord gives us the Law".
The floor of the chapel is in the style of the Cosmati brothers, who worked in Italy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It recalls the magnificent Cosmati pavement of Westminster Abbey.
In this Chapel we pray for those who seek Christian belief, as well as those who spread the gospel, and all those persecuted for their faith.
Lord, through the prayers of St Paul
help us to spread the Gospel in our words and deeds.
Be with all those who suffer for what they believe;
strengthen their hope, and comfort them in their suffering.