Rome > Saint John Basilica

Saint John Basilica

San Giovanni in Laterano, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist, is the cathedral of Rome and, at the same time, the most important of the four patriarchal basilicas of the city. The Church and the Lateran Palace are part of the Vatican City, even if they are located outside its territory, and every Pope in the year of his coronation takes solemnly possession of the cathedral on the quality of the bishop of Rome. 

Between 1123 and 1512 in this church took place the meetings of five councils, and, in the room of the Lateran Palace, in 1929, were negotiated the Treaties governing the relations between the Italian state and the church. Between 1309 and 1377, the Lateran was the official residence of the Pope. 

The original basilica was built in 313 under the pontificate of Melchiade, erected on the foundations of an old barracks of the imperial guard. After various damages and collapses caused by earthquakes and fires during the period of the early Middle Ages, the first construction has been lost and the restoration of the building, has been made during the fourteenth and fifteenth century. 

The facade is characterized by six imposing pillars and is crowned by the statues of Christ, of San Giovanni and ten doctors of the church; every statue is 7 meter high. At the extreme right there’s the Holy Door, which is open only during the Holy Year. On the left there is a statue of Constantine who was brought here from the baths of Constantine at the Quirinale. 

The interior of the Church (which is long 130 m) is in baroque style and yet, despite all the changes and extensions that were made during the period that goes from the seventeenth century to the nineteenth century, still shines the rigor of the solemn basilica construction. 

The church of San Giovanni, as also Saint Peter, was not destined to be exclusively place of meditation and prayers, but had to express above all the power and splendor of the Church and of its representatives. 

The Egyptian obelisk of Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano is the oldest in Rome, dating back to the XV century B.C., and in ancient Rome was located at Circo Massimo. In front of the palace there is the Holy Staircase, on which Christ would be ascended to be conducted to Pilate.