Mater et caput of the Roman Catholic followers
Archbasilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni) is one of the oldest churches in Europe, and one of the four major basilicas in Rome. Located in the south-east of the Esquilino, a neighborhood further up the hill from the tourist crowds, this church is a must-see even if you are not a religious follower. Apart from holding a primary stance in Roman Catholic faith, this basilica attracts tourists with its stunning architecture and rich history.
Sitting at one of the benches in a little square in front of the basilica, you can spend some time watching over the details of the immense white exterior facade that was created by Alessandro Galilei in 1735. Walking in, you will witness the magnificent interior, adorned with colossal columns, Borromini statues of the 12 Apostles and beautiful ancient paintings that cover everything from the roof to the floor.
In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine I granted the Bishop to transform the Lateran family’s assets into a religious complex that would fit a large number of faithful. Pope Sylvester I consecrated the new basilica in 324, dedicating it to the Most Holy Savior. Later on during the 9th and 12th centuries, it further included St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist in its dedication.
Following the ceiling, golden motifs peak at the gothically decorated bars of the Altar of the Sacrament. The signature papal altar with relics from Paul and Peter was designed by Pietro Paolo Olivieri. The bronze doors located in the center were commissioned from the Roman Senate House, also known as the Curia Julia in the Roman Forum.
Additionally, the Basilica contains one of the oldest baptisteries in Rome. On the left from the altar, you can find the entrance for the exquisite 13th-century Cloister and Lateran Complex that was preserved and reconstructed. The Cloister is an impressive example of cosmatesque art crafted by Pietro Vassalletto and contains preserved architectural elements, sculptures, and ornaments from the ancient basilica. For a small entrance fee (€4) you can take a refreshing walk and enjoy the greenery of the little garden and visit four galleries with the two of the greatest works of Medieval sculpture: the Altar of Marie Magdalene and the Tomb of Riccardo Annibaldi.
In the present day, the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano is the location where the Pope, who serves as the Bishop of Rome, conducts the Holy Thursday Mass.
Address: Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, 4
Opening hours: Every day, 7am – 6:30pm