Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano


The Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome


Would you like to visit the ‘Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano’ or the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome? All the information you need about this church in Rome.

Info Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome

address Piazza del Laterano, 4 Rome
metro San Giovanni Metro Station (Line A)
entrance Free admission
opening hours Daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (in winter until 6 p.m.)
Dress code Many churches in Rome have dress codes. Please cover your knees and shoulders and do not wear flip flops.

Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome

The ‘Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano‘, or the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran in Rome was founded in 313 under Emperor Constantine the Great. Emperor Constantine was the emperor who, with the “Edict of Milan” 313, permitted religious freedom in the Roman Empire, to which Christianity also belonged.

The church originally served as the papal residence. She lost this function after the return of the Pope from Avignon (1309-1377), partly due to a series of fires. However, the church remained one of the four papal churches of Rome alongside St. Peter’s Basilica (the other two papal churches are Santa Maria Maggiore and San Paolo Fuori le Mura).

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It is worth noting that this church is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome and technically gives it the status of the most important church in Rome.

The basilica is the oldest church building in Rome, but little remained of the original after a severe earthquake in 896. It was not until 1650 that the church was thoroughly rebuilt by the architect Borromini for Pope Innocent X. It is given its current baroque appearance. It was not until the 18th century that Alessandro Galilei gave the church its beautiful facade with 15 statues.

The only medieval remnant of the church is the 5th century octagonal baptistery. The name ‘Laterano‘is derived from the family name’ Lateranus’. This is because the church was built in the gardens of the former palace of the royal family by Plautius Lateranus. He was sentenced to death under Emperor Nero for allowing Christians to hide in his palace, and his palace was confiscated by Emperor Nero.

Three centuries later, Emperor Constantine returned the palace to Pope Miltiades, after which the palace was used as the papal residence.

Sights in the Archbasilica

Some of the attractions in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran:

  • In the middle of the church is the gothic decorated papal altar with relics of Paul and Peter behind golden bars.
  • The church also has twelve statues depicting the apostles, made by Bernini students.
  • The frescoes on the ceiling were designed by Michelangelo, but they were done by his apprentice Giacomo della Porta.
  • The green central doors of the church originally came from the Senate building of the Roman Forum.
  • The church contains six papal tombs: Pope Sergius IV (1009-1012), Pope Alexander III. (1159-1181), Pope Innocent III. (1198-1216), Pope Martinus V (1417-1431), Pope Clement XII. (1730-1740)) and Pope Leo XII. (1878-1903).
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Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano

The obelisk in Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano is one of the largest and oldest obelisks in Rome. Opposite the basilica is the Scala Sancta (‘Holy Staircase’). These steps are believed to have been part of Pontius Pilate’s headquarters in Jerusalem.

It is believed that Jesus himself took these steps and that they were later brought to Rome as a relic. These steps lead to the “most holy of holies” and the believers climb the steps on their knees and have earned themselves a treat since Pope Pius VII.

Where is the Archbasilica in Rome?