The Basilica of St. John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano) was built on the same site as the Basilica founded by Constantine around 311 – 314 AD, under the direction of Pope Melchiade. It is one of the oldest churches all over the world. Since the pope is also the bishop of Rome, the Basilica San Giovanni in Laterano is considered as the seat of the papal throne. The basilica is also Rome’s cathedral.
The current structure of the Basilica of St. John Lateran is similar to that of the St. Peter’s Basilica. The original plan for the church is to have a total of five aisles. There is an inscription on the façade of the church that says “Christo Salvatori” and this signifies the church’s devotion to “Christ the Savior”, since the cathedrals of all the patriarchs are said to be dedicated solely for Christ. Since the Basilica of St. John Lateran is also the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, it has a rank that is higher than the rest of the Catholic churches in the world and this includes the St. Peter’s Basilica. Because of this, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is hailed as the “Archbasilica.”
The Basilica of St. John Lateran has an interesting history. In 897, the former church was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake. In 1307 and 1361, two destructive fires have ravaged the Lateran Palace as well as the Basilica. But several reconstructions were done and the facade that it has today was the result of a reconstruction done in 1735. It features a neo classical facade instead of the traditional ancient basilica architecture. The stunning statues of the Apostles that can be seen in the Church today were created by sculptors in the late baroque period, right in the beginning of the 1700s. Right now, the Basilica of St. John Lateran is one of the most visited churches not only in Rome, but all over the world as well.
How to Get There
The Basilica of St. John Lateran is open from 7 AM until 7 PM daily. In winter, the church is open only until 6 PM and entrance is free. In order to get to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, simply take the metro and get off at the San Giovanni stop. Then walk towards the church for less than five minutes.
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, 4, Rome, Italy
Metro Line A - Station San Giovanni, buses