Founded during the fourth century in honour of St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, St John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) is the Cathedral of Rome and the most important of the four major basilicas. It is known as St John Lateran Archbasilica, as is it considered the mother church of the Roman Catholic faithful.
The Lateran Palace was handed over by Constantine I to the Bishop of Rome, who converted the building into a temple during the fourth century. The Basilica is the oldest church in Europe.
In the early part of the fourth century, the Laterani family were stripped of their land as one of their members was accused of conspiring against the Emperor. It was given to the Bishop of Rome in order to build the first Roman basilica.
Throughout the centuries, St John Lateran has survived several fires and an earthquake in 897. Nevertheless, it still maintains its first form even though it has been reconstructed on several occasions. Near the Archbasilica there was a monastery, which has completely disappeared now; the only part still standing is its beautiful cloister from the thirteenth century. The Basilica also houses a baptistery, which for many years was the only baptistery in Rome.
The Basilica of St. John Lateran has played an important role throughout history; it was here that all popes were enthroned up until 1870. Nowadays, Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterno is where the Pope, as Bishop of Rome, celebrates Holy Thursday Mass.
The two-story portico on the Basilica’s main façade was constructed during the eighteenth century, and it is where the Pope blesses the congregation on Holy Thursday. On the top part of the façade visitors will see imposing statues of the Apostles and Jesus, also dating from the eighteenth century.
The central doors made of bronze were previously used at the Roman Senate House (the Curia Julia) within the Roman Forum.
The Basilica’s interior is magnificent with colossal statues, mosaics and frescoes from the ceiling to the ground, with impressive columns.
The Holy Stairs (Scala Santa) are located near the Lateran Basilica. These are renowned because it is believed that Jesus Christ stepped on them during His Passion. They were relocated from Jerusalem to Rome in 326 by St Helena.
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, 4.
Every day: 7 am – 6:30 pm
Metro station: San Giovanni, line A.
Buses: 16, 81, 85, 87, 186, 650, 810 and 850.