Archbasilica of St. John Lateran

Rome, Italy

the basilica of Saint John Lateran was built under pope Melchiade (311-314). It is the oldest surviving church in the world. Due to the fact that the pope is also the bishop of Rome, Saint John in Lateran is also Rome's Cathedral.

The present structure of the Basilica resembles the Saint Peter's basilica. The original plan had already five aisles. The ancient church was residence of the popes until the coming back from the exile in Avignone (1377), when it was moved to the Vatican. It was pillage-stock of the Visigoths (410), the Vandals (455); the earthquake in 896 caused the central aisle roof to collapse (rebuilt under pope Sergio III in 904-911).

Put on fire in 1308 first and in 1361 then, it was remade under the pontificate of Gregorio XI (1370-1378), following the plan of the ancient structure that had by then become a ruin. The repair works continued during the entire fifteenth century and the sumptuous ceiling was realized in 1562.

Sisto V (1585-1590) ordered the construction of the Blessings Lodge (positioned at the end of right side aisle), and the making of the Lateranense building assigning the project to Domenico Fontana.

After about 140 years Pope Innocenzo X Pamphili (1644-1655) decided in 1646 to bring the cathedral to new splendour entrusting Francesco Borromini of the repair. The architect was supposed to finish the works in time for the Holy Year of 1650 and had to reserve (according to the pacts with the pope) the structure of the ancient Basilica of St John Lateran. The artist put 12 niches spaced up by 5 huge arches supported by as many pillars in the mid aisle.

The great statues of the Apostles that we can admire today in the borrominian niches were made by sculptors of the late baroque in the beginning of 1700.

In 1731 Pope Clement XII summons a competition for the new façade of Saint John in Lateran. The winner without too much merit was the Florentine Alessandro Galilei who in 1735 finishes the works of the present façade. Under the ogival tabernacle (at the end of the central aisle, in the transept) is the papal altar where only the Pope can give mass. Above the sacramental altar there's a fragment of the table on which Jesus consumed the last supper. The Cathedral hosts also Jesus' blood, brought to Rome by centurion Longino. Numerous are the chapels of noble families realized by some of the best artists of the different epochs. In the intermediate right aisle, close to the first pillar, one can admire Boniface VIII proclaims the Jubilee of 1300, a fresco made by Giotto.

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Founded: 311-314 AD
Category: Religious sites in Italy

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Maryanne Roy (2 years ago)
The interior is amazing! You must see the sculptures of the apostles and the ornate paintings. Marble galore! The Basilica is across the street from a small church that is known for "the Holy Stairs".
Dominik Dumancic (2 years ago)
We went there after reading that Pope has his chair there for service. Make no mistake, this is most impressive church in Rome. I was surprised that not many people were there. We took Bird scooters and got there in 8 minutes from Colosseum. Church is slightly smaller than St Peter but impressive nevertheless.
Taras Colopelnic (2 years ago)
Gorgeous basilica. The seat of the Diocese of Rome, the Cathedral of the Pope. This is a very important church and the oldest in Rome (oldest basilica in the whole world). One of the four papal basilicas, so it is a must see when in Rome!
Anne Chin (3 years ago)
The mist important church in Rome. Nope! It's not St. Peter's. One of the 4 Basilicas to complete your visit in Rome. Attended a beautiful Sunday mass here. Arrive at 9:45 AM. There's a beautiful music played for half an hour at least. Then mass proper with music starts at 10:30AM. Such a beautiful service.
Ronald van der Horst (3 years ago)
Like a lot of things in Rome, the ceilings are amazing. This one stands out with golden statues , weapons and other things with depth attached to the ceiling. Impressive.
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