Erected in the fourth century in honour of St. John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist, the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) is the most important of the four major basilicas, and is also the Cathedral of Rome.
Created under the orders of Constantine the Great in the fourth century, the Basilica of St. John Lateran was the first church built in Rome.
In the early fourth century the emperor Constantine stripped the Laterani family of their land in order to build the first Roman basilica.
Although over the years the church has lived through an earthquake and several fires, it has undergone various reconstructions and still retains its primitive form as well as a beautiful thirteenth-century cloister and an ancient baptistery that has been extensively restored.
The Basilica of St. John Lateran has played an important role in history, because it was here that all the popes were inaugurated up to 1870. Nowadays, the church has not lost the importance that it has always enjoyed because the Pope, as bishop of Rome, continues to hold the Maundy Thursday mass here.
The two-story portico on the main facade of the basilica dates from the eighteenth century, and is the place from which the pope gives his blessing on Maundy Thursday. At the top of the facade, imposing statues of Christ and the saints sculpted in the eighteenth century welcome the faithful.
The central bronze doors are the originals that were used in the Roman Curia, located in the Imperial Forums.
The basilica’s interior is grandiose and richly decorated, from the ceiling, to the floors adorned with mosaics, to the imposing columns and colossal statues.
In addition to being the cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is among the most beautiful churches in the city. Despite being one of the largest churches, it is not as memorable as Our Lady of the Conception or Basilica di San Clemente.
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, 4.
Monday through Sunday: 7am to 6.30pm.
Metro: San Giovanni, line A.
Bus: lines 16, 81, 85, 87, 186, 650, 810, and 850.