During the fateful night of July 15th/16th, 1823, a fire broke out in the roof of San Paolo fuori le Mura (St Paul Outside the Wall), almost completely destroying the ancient basilica. Thankfully, the church's beautiful medieval cloister survived the conflagration.
The cloister was begun under Abbot Pietro da Capua (1193-1208) and finished after 1228. It was created, at least in part, of the Vassalletto family, Roman sculptors who also worked on the cloister of San Giovanni in Laterano. The walks have coupled colonnettes of different forms, which are decorated with Cosmati work. In the centre of the cloister is a rose garden.
Following the fire, St Paul's, which is the largest church in Rome after St Peter's, and one of the city's four great papal basilicas, was rebuilt. In plan and dimensions (if not in spirit), the new basilica is an exact copy of the old one.