|San Giovanni in Laterano|
|English name:||St John at the Lateran|
|Dedication:||Jesus Christ and Sts John the Evangelist and John the Baptist|
|Type:||Patriarchal basilica and cathedral|
|Built:||4th century, rebuilt later|
|Architect(s):||Borromini, Alessandro Galilei, Virgilio Vespigniani|
|Artists:||Pierre Legros, Andrea Bregno, Camillo Rusconi, Isaia da Pisa, et.al.|
|Address:|| Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano 4|
San Giovanni in Laterano is a heavily restored and remodelled 4th century basilica which is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, having its address as Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano in the rione Monti. Pictures on Wikimedia Commons are here. An English Wikipedia page is here.
The official name of the basilica in Italian is Santissimo Salvatore e Santi Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista in Laterano.
The usual familiar name in English is invariably "St John Lateran", and in Italian San Giovanni in Laterano. These will do for most purposes -but should be avoided in liturgical contexts.
This is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, of which the Pope is the reigning bishop. As a result, the Roman Catholic Church has named it "The Mother of All Churches" (Omnium ecclesiarum mater), and it has first place in honour of all churches ever built.
This is demonstrated on the façade, where a subsidiary inscription proclaims that Dogmate papali datur ac simul imperiali, quod sim cunctarum mater caput ecclesiarum ("It is given by Papal and Imperial decree that I am the mother and head of all churches").
Non-Catholics may find it odd that St Peter's is not the senior church, but this is because of the theory behind the authority held by the Pope. Catholics believe that bishops are the heirs of the College of the Apostles with St Peter as its head, so the Pope is the head of all the bishops by virtue of his being the heir of St Peter as Bishop of Rome. St Peter's is the preferred location for the exercise of the pope's universal authority over the entire Church, but St John Lateran is the location of the source of that authority.
This is the senior of the four major basilicas of Rome, the other three (on order of seniority) being San Pietro in Vaticano, San Paolo fuori le Mura and Santa Maria Maggiore. In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI abolished the title of “patriarchal basilica” formerly also given to these four churches.
St John Lateran is also the senior of the so-called Papal Basilicas which include, a well as these four, San Lorenzo fuori le Mura (also a former "patriarchal basilica") and two churches in Assisi the altars of which are reserved for celebrations of Mass by the Pope (except by special dispensation, which is actually routinely given).
A recent development has been the bestowal of the title of "archbasilica" (arcibasilica) to emphasize the church's primacy.
It has been parochial for centuries, but nowadays the parish is not based in the basilica itself but in the baptistery.
Ancient times Edit
In Republican times the locality of the basilica was a convenient exurban open space outside the Porta Caelimontana in the old Servian Walls, which was used for casual recreational and military training activities. However, the area was becoming inner-suburban even before the Aurelian Walls enclosed it to the south. These were erected by AD 275, by which time some villas of wealthy people had already been erected in the neighbourhood. (The ancient Romans themselves called such an exurban house a villa urbana, because it was easily accessed from the city for a short country stay.)
The present Piazza di San Giovanni Laterano was an important road junction in ancient times. It is suggested (with some debate) that before the Aurelian Walls were erected the ancient main road of the Via Tusculana ran up the west side of the present basilical complex and along the present Via dei Quattro Coronati. This route was provided with a postern gate where the ancient city wall does a zig-zag, but traffic then mainly used the Porta Asinaria. The importance of this road is that the baptistery preserves the alignment in its major axis.
The original source of the name Lateran was the family of the Laterani, which claimed descent from the 4th century BC consul Lucius Sextus Lateranus. It had a distinguished member in one Plautius Lateranus, who narrowly escaped with his life and phallus after having sex with Messalina the wife of Emperor Claudius but was then executed by Nero for suspicion of involvement in the conspiracy of Piso. According to Juvenal, the emperor then helped himself to the "impressive houses of the Laterani" which might (or might not) have included a residence here.
Whatever, it seems more certain that a villa here was granted to the consul Sextius Lateranus in AD 197 by his friend the emperor Septimius Severus. Whether this was a restitution or a simple gift, is for modern scholars to guess if they want to (the fashion nowadays is not to). This action by the emperor gave the name to the locality -however, the actual geographic term in Laterano is only unambiguously found in the sources from the 11th century.
Domus Faustae Edit
The first documented evidence for a possible papal headquarters hereabouts is in a work by St Optatus of Milevis, an African writer. According to it, Pope Miltiades held a synod in the year 313 convenerunt in domum Faustae in "Laterani" [sic]. The editor of the critical edition of the saint's works unilaterally corrected the corrupt Laterani to Laterano, which is how the remark is usually copied and which gives the false impression that in Laterano was already a locality.
For centuries the lady Fausta, in whose house the synod convened, was identified with Fausta, the emperor Constantine's second wife who was herself a convert and a daughter of his defeated rival. However, to be noted are:
There is no evidence that this Fausta was the empress (the latter had not lived in Rome since she was a little girl). Neither is there any evidence that this Domus Faustae was the original house of the Laterani. Finally, there is no evidence that the Domus Fausti was donated to the pope to become the original papal palace. The pope might have borrowed the property for the day to hold the synod!
In Imperial times this locality on an outlier of the Caelian Hill counted as prestigious, and several large and palatial villa-type town houses have been excavated nearby.
Under the Ospedale di San Giovanni to the north-west was found in 1959 a very high-status residence in use from the 1st to the 4th centuries, thought to have been the residence of Domitia Lucilla the mother of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. The suggested ownership of this house depends on the name of the empress being found on a piece of lead pipe near the obelisk in the Piazza di San Giovanni Laterano. This is important in the context of the basilica because it has been claimed as the original location of the famous equestrian statue of the emperor, which stood for centuries where the obelisk now is before being moved to the Campodoglio in 1538. Mediaeval people thought that it was of the emperor Constantine, and called it the Caballus Constantini. (The statue is now thought to have been near the Column of Marcus Aurelius in ancient times, which obviously makes sense.)
In the acute angle formed by the present Via dell'Amba Aradam and the Via dei Laterani was traced another large residence, originally two large dwellings in the 1st century but combined into one larger one in the 4th. This is one of several suggested claimants for the title of the House of the Laterani and/or the Domus Faustae.
Another large house around a trapezoidal courtyard was located under the basilica's apse in 1884 during restoration work. This has also been claimed as the Domus Faustae.
It is known that there was a bath complex on the baptistery site in the late 3rd century, although how this evolved into the baptistery is disputed. There is an impressive standing ruin of another bath-house west of the baptistery. It is thought that both baths belonged to private villas, but which ones (those already described, or unknown others) cannot be decided without further excavations.
Under the basilica itself the archaeologists found the remains of a wealthy 1st century house with rich decoration of Neronian date. In about the year AD 197 it was demolished and replaced by a very large barracks complex called the Castra Nova Equitum Singularium, which was for the mounted bodyguard or equites singulares of the emperor Septimius Severus. (The ancient Romans weren't complete geniuses -as well as not being able to invent the wheelbarrow, they did not have stirrups either. This meant that these troops were not very effective in warfare, but were mainly for show.)
The period of the civil war which eventually put the emperor Constantine on the throne involved the city of Rome being held by the emperor Maxentius, a confirmed pagan (as were most of the city's elite) and also the last Roman emperor actually to reside at Rome permanently.The equites singulares were part of Maxentius's army, and loyal to him. The Battle of the Milvian Bridge on 28 October 312 saw the triumph of Constantine and the rout of the equites. This seems to have been one factor in the choice of the site of the basilica, for by demolishing the barracks of the elite troops of his enemy and erecting a Christian basilica over the foundations, Constantine's victory was symbolically made even more complete.
Constantine published the Edict of Milan in February 313, ending official disapproval of Christianity, and went on to make Christianity the official government cult of the Empire. He did not, however, suppress paganism and another motivation for choosing this rather out-of-the-way suburban site was its distance from the great pagan public institutions of Rome. By tradition the emperor granted Pope Miltiades the barracks and the so-called Domus Faustae for his headquarters as soon as he entered the city as victor in 312, and a church edifice was immediately consecrated here on 9 November 312. This is much too early, and is obviously dependent on the casual remark by Optatus already referred to.
It is not actually known where the pope had his headquarters in the city before then. Two centuries of archaeological investigations have led to not one single instance of a dedicated pre-Constantinian Christian place of worship being positively identified. This negative evidence is now thought to be significant. As well as private houses for small gatherings, it is suspected that early Roman Christians merely rented commercial meeting-halls for their larger gatherings -and so the pope might not have had a permanent and Church-owned cathedral before Constantine at all. (It may be noted here that the old idea that early Roman Christians lived and worshipped in the catacombs is complete rubbish.)
The barracks and the trapezoidal house next door were partially demolished for the new basilica, and the voids created by removing the roofs and the upper parts of the walls were packed with rubble to create a platform on which to erect the new basilica.
There is a serious problem in interpreting the functions of the several so-called Constantinian Christian basilicas. See Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura -Basilica Constantiniana. Basically, the revisionist hypothesis is that only the Lateran basilica was a church as nowadays understood -that is, a place where the Eucharist was celebrated. The others seem to have been funerary monuments without altars - this applies even to the old St Peter's.
The new basilica was consecrated on Sunday 9 November, almost certainly in the year 318. This makes it the oldest known church in Rome.
Form of first basilica Edit
Substantial alterations throughout the centuries have made some aspects of the form of the first basilica debatable. The following is a fair scholarly consensus:
The edifice was 100 metres long (almost exactly), and 54.5 metres wide. There was a central nave with two side aisles on each side (the Italian nomenclature describes these as "five naves"), with each side aisle being half the width of the central nave. The end of the latter was occupied by a semi-circular apse ten metres deep. The inner side aisles were the same length as the central nave, but the outer side aisles were ten metres shorter and ended at a pair of large rectangular chambers which protruded beyond the external side walls on each side. It is not known what these chambers were for. They were not a transept, and seem to have been in the wrong place to be pastophoria or side-chambers for the storage of liturgical items and the preparation of the liturgical elements.
The outside was apparently unadorned, although lack of descriptions is not evidence of lack. The entrance arrangements are unknown. An atrium with colonnaded ambulatories is a possibility, although the one known to be here seems to have been built later (as at St Peter's). Otherwise there would have been a single-storey narthex or loggia, entering the church (it is thought) through three doorways -not five.
The central nave and side aisles were separated by colonnades supporting horizontal entablatures (that is, trabeated). On either side of the central nave were nineteen or twenty columns in red granite from Aswan in Egypt (the same stone as used in the obelisk outside), and the side aisles were separated by a colonnade on each side of twenty-one columns in green verde antico marble.
The roof was open, with trusses (in contrast to ancient Roman basilicas, which were vaulted in concrete).
As might be expected, the interior was lavishly decorated. If the 7th century entry in the Liber Pontificalis is to be trusted (a big "if"), the free-standing main altar had a fastigium (baldacchino ?) in precious metals. This featured a representation in silver of Christ accompanied by the twelve apostles on the side facing the nave, Christ with four angels holding swords in silver on the side facing the apse and a golden canopy from which hung a chandelier in gold. It is not clear whether these were silver statues "in the round", or high reliefs, but the Liber has the main statue of Christ weighing one hundred and forty Roman pounds in silver and being five feet high. Seven altars in silver flanked the main one, which possibly displayed relics and sacred vessels (they would not have been used for Mass at this period). The conch of the apse containing the cathedra had a mosaic featuring vine-scrolls in gold.
The interpretation of the description of this fastigium is very difficult, as it might have been like a baldacchino as now understood, or more like a propylaeum or triumphal gateway separating the sanctuary from the nave (the latter seems to be the more preferred interpretation). A further problem of analysis was provided by the archaeologists excavating under the floor of the nave, who found two lines of rectangular marble blocks with sockets in front of the sanctuary. These, called the solea, are posited to have continued down the central nave, and to have supported some sort of processional canopy. Such an item is not reconcilable with pontifical liturgies performed in later centuries, but then nobody knows how the basilica functioned liturgically when it was built anyway.
The interior as a whole had forty-six hanging lamps in silver, donated by the emperor. He also gave a patrimony in land to the new church as a working institution, in Greece and North Africa as well as nearer home in Calabria, Campania and in the city itself.
5th to 7th centuries Edit
The church was first simply known as the Basilica Constantiniana, but it seems to have been dedicated to Christ Our Saviour from the beginning. However, the first mention of the dedication dates from the mid 7th century in the reign of Pope Martin I (649-55). At an early stage it was also nicknamed the Basilica Aurea, "The Golden Basilica", either because of its rich interior decoration or because its inside walls had been revetted with yellow marble (there is archaeological evidence that the floor was).
The original silver fastigium was looted by the Visigoths when they sacked the city in 410, and replaced by Emperor Valentinian III in the reign of Pope Sixtus III (432-40). The same pope might have built the present baptistery, but this is disputed (see section below). A much more systematic sack of Rome was undertaken by the Vandals in 455, and the basilica was apparently stripped of its precious metals. It was restored by Pope St Leo the Great, and one scholarly interpretation is that this pope rebuilt the apse with an ambulacrum or semi-circular outside walkway (this is disputed). His successor, Pope Hilary (461-468) founded three subsidiary oratories dedicated to St John the Baptist, St John the Evangelist and the Holy Cross which were to each side and the back of the baptistery (the last-named was a converted ancient building, and was demolished in 1588). These were the first of many subsidiary chapels and churches around the basilica in the Middle Ages.
The first reference to a papal palace here dates from the year 501. Although the sensible tradition is that the popes took up residence here from the time of Constantine, there is actually no proof of this.
There was another restoration by Pope St Gregory the Great in about 590. It is regularly claimed in publications that the dedication of the basilica then changed to St John the Baptist, and that a Benedictine monastery was attached to it. This was a malicious fabrication propagated by the Benedictine abbey of Montecassino from the 12th century in order to boost its prestige, and should be ignored. The basilica has never been administered by monks, only by secular priests succeeded by canons regular.
The Oratory of St Venantius was built next to the baptistery by Pope John IV (640-642). He was from Dalmatia (modern Croatia), which was being ruined by incursions of Slav barbarians at the time (these hominids made the Germanic barbarians look high-tech), and so built the oratory for saints' relics rescued from ruined churches.
The foundation of the present baptistery is controverted by scholars. Archaeologists working from 1925 to 1929 found evidence beneath it of a circular 4th (?) century building, inserted into a bath-house complex itself rebuilt at the start of the 3rd century. One interpretation is that this rotunda was a pre-existing baptistery taken over by Constantine for his basilica. A second one is that this rotunda was the baptistery that Constantine built, and that in either case it was demolished and replaced by the present octagonal edifice by Pope Sixtus III in the early 5th century. This is disputed, and alternatively it is claimed that the present octagonal structure is Constantinian and that Pope Sixtus only altered the interior arrangements.
Emperor Constantine had installed a porphyry font with seven silver deer pouring water out of their mouths, also an image of the Lamb of God in gold and images of Christ and St John the Baptist in silver. All the metal would have been looted by the barbarians in the 5th century.
It has been suggested (without evidence) that the dedication of St John the Baptist was originally that of the baptistery, and that it passed to the basilica by a sort of osmosis. The first unofficial documentary mention of the basilica itself having a subsidiary dedication to the two saints John is from the mid 7th century: Basilica costantiniana quae et Salvatoris ipsa quoque et S[an]c[t]i Iohannis dicitur. An official reference to such a dedication has to wait until the beginning of the 10th century.
Monasteries and vineyards Edit
The conquests of Islam in the latter 7th century meant that many monastics of Eastern rite came to Rome as refugees. By this time the hills of Rome were already depopulated, because the aqueducts had failed and the only way to obtain a water supply was to dig a deep well. Hence the surviving citizens huddled next to the river, and in the valleys where there were springs and where shallow wells would yield water. The hills were left to the monks, who founded many monasteries on them.
It is thought that these spearheaded the clearance of the ruined city neighbourhoods on the hills, and turned them into vineyards -drinking well and river water was dangerous to the health, hence the ready market for wine. This meant an enormous amount of work, but the process is entirely undocumented. It used to be imagined that the ruins simply somehow eroded away and left open country, but a moment's thought will show how silly this idea is. The vineyards provided the setting for the basilica until the 19th century.
In 726, the Imperial government at Constantinople (the so-called "Byzantine Empire", although the Roman citizens and everyone else back then called it the Roman Empire) began a policy of iconoclasm or destruction of sacred images which was strenuously resisted by Greek monastics. This led to another influx of exiles into Rome, and hence more monasteries. By the end of the century, the basilica was the focus of a swarm of monasteries which mostly faded away after the 10th century. The surviving churches of Santi Marcellino e Pietro al Laterano and Sant'Andrea in Laterano descend from two of them.
8th century Edit
Pope Zacharias (741-51), a Greek himself, is the first pope on record to initiate substantial building works in the patriarchium or papal palace, which were continued by Pope Hadrian I (772–779) and which eventually resulted in the enormous mediaeval palace. The latter pope also restored the roof of the basilica and the atrium, and it is argued that he actually built the latter instead of repairing a previously existing structure. Support for this opinion lies in the odd layout -the atrium only occupied the basilica's frontage for the central nave and the two right hand side aisles. It is thought that this was in order to respect a pre-existing structure on the site of the later Oratory of St Thomas.
Pope Leo III (795-816) built a famous dining hall or Triclinium Leoninum for the palace, which was embellished with mosaics in its apse. An 18th century copy of apse and mosaics is near the Scala Santa, but not on the original site which was nearer the basilica's façade and faced the other way. He also installed stained glass windows in the apse (it is known that the apse had windows, but the disposition of the original fenestration of the basilica is unknown).
9th century Edit
The Liber Pontificalis entry for Pope Sergius II (844-7) mentions that he had a ceremonial staircase installed in the north entrance of the palace. It became known as the Scala Pilati, which literally means "staircase armed with javelins". An unprovable hypothesis is that this name originally referred to guards with javelins standing at the entrance to the palace, and that later the word pilati was taken to refer to Pontius Pilate -and so the legend of the Scala Santa was born.
In 897 the basilica was the scene of the surreal "cadaver synod", when Pope Stephen VI (896–897) had the body of Pope Formosus (891-896) exhumed and put on a mock trial. The corpse was convicted, desecrated and ended up in the river. A 19th century painting of the proceedings is here.
During the synod the basilica was, ominously, severely damaged by an earthquake in the year 896. The entire roof of the central nave fell in. Nowadays it is not considered that Rome is at risk from a major earthquake, but in fact major ones have occasionally happened and this particular one probably caused the final ruination of the great ancient monuments of the Roman Forum and elsewhere in the city. (Another earthquake in 1349 is now considered to have collapsed one side of the Colosseum, leaving a very convenient heap of building stone for Renaissance architects.)
10th century Edit
Pope Sergius III (904–911) had the basilica completely restored because of the earthquake damage. This has been described as a complete rebuilding on the old foundations, but this is disputed. Fabric of the outer walls was probably left standing, while the central nave side walls above the colonnades were rebuilt. This restoration involved new mosaics in the apse, and a tower campanile was also apparently erected. It is only now that the dedication of St John the Baptist appears in the official sources.
There is some debate about this campanile, with an alternative viewpoint being that the twin campanili now existing derive from a similar pair erected by Pope Sergius.
Pope John XII (955-964) built an oratory dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle, against the basilica's frontage next to the beginnings of the left hand side aisles. This was in the corner of the frontage and the atrium, and probably replaced an earlier building. This structure was to function as the basilica's sacrarium or vestry for centuries, until demolished in the 17th century. It was the original location of the famous Sedes stercoraria or "shitty chair", in which the pope sat during his ceremonial vesting. An extremely stupid legend alleged that it that it was used to examine the anus of a newly-elected pope to check that he was a virgin up there, but the real reason was that, when the pope sat in the seat, the chapel choir sang a verse from Psalm 113: Suscitans de terra inopem, de stercore erigens pauperem ("He raises the helpless from the ground, from the shit-heap he lifts up the poor"). A mitigated version of the legend suggests that the inspection was to ensure that the candidate had intact genitalia, so as to fulfil an ancient requirement for the sacramental priesthood derived from Jewish norms specified in the Old Testament.
The first mention of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Campus Lateranensis (the present Piazza di San Giovanni Laterano) is from 965. The popes were collecting other ancient sculptures to display here, too. These included the Spinario, the Lex de imperio Vespasiani and the fragments of the Colossus of Constantine. (The Capitoline Wolf was thought to be one of these, but is actually early mediaeval.)
In the 10th and 11th centuries, several popes were buried in the portico next to the atrium. As well as Pope John XII, Popes John X, John XIV, Alexander II and Sylvester II were laid to rest here before the fashion established itself of burial at St Peter's.
Layout in the Middle Ages Edit
At the turn of the millennium, the basilica was in open country surrounded by vineyards as the nearest urban areas were the Roman Forum (turned into a closely-packed neighbourhood) and the Suburra (a slum in ancient times, and to remain so until the 19th century). The road network had been mostly abandoned, and the main access to the complex was a driveway from the Via Labicana on the line of the lower end of the present Via Merulana. Another important route for pilgrims ran to the Tiber quays via the Clivus Scauri, San Gregorio Magno al Celio and the north side of the Circus Maximus. A road of sorts led down to the Via Appia near the Baths of Caracalla, and donkey tracks occupied the present Via dei Quattro Coronati and the present road to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. The only way to Santa Maria Maggiore was via a lane to Sant'Eusebio all'Esquilino and then through the Arch of Gallienus.
To the north of the basilica was the papal palace or patriarchium, with the private living quarters of the pope around what is now the Scala Santa and the official departments around a courtyard on the site of the present palace. To the south of the basilica were the living quarters of the resident clergy, later called the monasterium. The basilica was initially administered by a college of secular priests, who were already expected to follow a common rule of life although their status as Canons Regular of the Lateran was to come later around the turn of the millennium.
The basilical complex proper was surrounded by subsidiary institutions, which as the Middle Ages progressed became focused on pilgrimages with many hospices being founded. As travelling to Rome became (relatively) safer in the 11th century, the number of pilgrims arriving here increased massively.
The section of the Forma Urbis Romae map by Lanciani 1901 which shows the layout of the complex in the later Middle Ages is here. Be aware that several details as shown are not now considered correct.
12th century Edit
In 1115 in the reign of Pope Paschal II, the basilica's tower campanile (or the eastern one of the two, if there were two) was struck by lightning and fell on outer right hand side aisle. It is uncertain whether this particular tower was put up by Pope Sergius III in the 10th century, or was a later 11th century replacement. Proper repair to the damage was finished only in the reign of Pope Innocent II (1130-43), but the tower was not replaced until the extant twin campanili were erected in the 13th century.
In 1120, the aqueduct of the Aqua Claudia was repaired to bring water to the complex. This can be regarded as the beginning of the glory days of the palace.
In 1123, the First Council of the Lateran was called by Pope Callixtus II. This ranks as an ecumenical council of the Church, and almost a thousand bishops and religious superiors attended. They assembled in a large meeting-hall which stood on the west side of the palace courtyard north of the basilica, and was fifty metres long with five apses in each side wall and one in the south end where the pope presided as chair. This aula concilii was to host further ecumenical councils. The Second Council of the Lateran was in 1139, the Third Council of the Lateran in 1179 and the Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215 (there was a Fifth Council much later, in 1512).
In the restoration by Pope Innocent II the far ends of the colonnades were cut back to give the church a proper transept, as it has now.
13th century Edit
It used to be thought that the portico was spectacularly rebuilt by Nicola d'Angelo in the reign of Pope Alexander III (1159-81), but this work is nowadays dated to the beginning of the 13th century. It survived until 1732, and sculptural fragments are now in the cloisters. The portico had six columns supporting an entablature bearing an epigraph announcing the basilica to be the first in dignity of all churches (the predecessor of the present recut inscription), as well as a frieze with lion-head masks and mosaics showing The Donation of Constantine, The Baptism of Constantine, The Beheading of the Baptist, The Boiling in Oil of St John the Evangelist and Pope St Sylvester Defeats the Dragon. All of these are lost.
Pope Honorius III (1216-27) is on record as supervising restoration work in the basilica. It used to be thought that his work was superseded by later projects, but now it seems that he might have been responsible for the above.
The superb surviving monastery cloisters were erected between 1222 and 1232 by Vassalletto father and son, both called Pietro. By this time the priests in charge were living as canons, that is, under a common rule of life. However, they were supplemented by salaried clergy called penitentiaries (penitenzieri) whose main job was to hear the confessions of pilgrims. These two groups shared the convent premises, but were kept apart institutionally.
Also around this time the influential Annibaldi family managed to obtain permission to build a palace and fortified tower in the Campus Lateranensis, in between the baptistery and the aula.
A serious earthquake in 1277 damaged both basilica and palace, and Pope Nicholas III oversaw the repair work. He is most famous for rebuilding the main palace chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum in the process -see San Lorenzo in Palatio ad Sancta Sanctorum for the result.
Pope Nicholas IV (1288-92) ordered a remodelling of the sanctuary area of the basilica. The apse was completely rebuilt, and it might have been at this point that an ambulacrum was provided running round the outside of the apse, instead of in the time of Pope Leo I. A magnificent mosaic by Jacopo Torriti was provided for the apse conch, which was destroyed in 1876. Torriti's assistant in this was a Franciscan friar called Jacopo da Camerino. The high altar was executed by Cinto de Salvati, and completed in 1293 by Giovanni dell'Aventino and Giovanni di Cosma with his son Lucantonio. The canopy of the baldacchino was in silver, supported by four columns of red jasper. In front of the altar and stretching into the nave was the schola cantorum or Choir of the Canons, enclosed by marble screens. The nave end of this featured another altar dedicated to St Mary Magdalen, which was the one used for ordinary daily Masses. This was erected by Deodato da Cosma in 1297.
At the end of the 13th century, the basilica would have been an absolute treasure-house of mediaeval artworks. Tragically little of these have survived, mostly in the form of sad fragments displayed in the cloister.
A fresco of the medieval interior of the basilica can be seen in San Martino ai Monti, but unfortunately scholars have recently decided that it is not reliable. More useful are a series of sketches of the outside of the basilica and palace made by Maarten van Heemskerck in about 1535.
Loggia of Benedictions Edit
The last intervention in the period of the basilica's glory was by Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303). He built the Loggia of Benedictions (Loggia dei Benedizioni) which was attached to the north end of the aula concilii, and was a spectacular raised balcony over the aula's entrance. Three porphyry columns supported an entablature, on which was the balcony proper which had a single large trefoil opening over a solid carved marble balustrade flanked by a pair of columns in verde antico. Over this in turn was a round-headed niche with a gable and flanked by a pair of crocketed Gothic pinnacles, which contained statues of SS Peter and Paul now in the basilica's museum. A drawing by Heemskerck can be found on a web-page here.
The most important aspect of this project was the fresco work by Giotto. A rather pathetic fragment of this, showing the pope, is now in the basilica.
The Loggia was built for the great Jubilee which the pope declared for the year 1300.
Avignon captivity Edit
On 6 May 1308 the basilica was gutted by fire, which destroyed the nave roof and also damaged the palace. It burned for three days. The complex never recovered, because the French Pope Clement V (1305–1314) refused to move to Rome after his election and settled at the papally governed enclave of Avignon in the south of France. The Avignon Captivity was a complete disaster for the city of Rome, as government (such as there was) was left in the charge of the abbot of San Paolo fuori le Mura and a feral nobility ran amok. The citizens and pilgrims were terrorized, and the population fell below 20 000 for the first time since the city grew to greatness.
The destruction of the basilica was not total, as the baldacchino of the altar was reported as only damaged and Emperor Henry VII was crowned here in 1312. Pope Clement sent an enormous sum of money for rebuilding, but in 1343 a storm damaged the basilica followed by an earthquake in 1347. Finally, the church was destroyed by fire again in 1360. This fire was much more thorough, since the transept roof burned as well as the nave and the altar was destroyed under the fallen debris. For four years the ruins lay untouched, to be lamented over by Petrarch.
Pope Urban V (1362–1370) finally commissioned an architect from Siena called Giovanni di Stefano to rebuild in 1364. Because many of the original columns of the colonnades had been crushed by falling walls, he apparently replaced several of them with brick piers. The surviving baldacchino is by him, and is now the only visible evidence of the restoration. He also added spires to the two campanili, later replaced. The work was completed in 1370.
Pope Gregory oversaw the completion of the restoration by di Stefano, and Pope Urban VI (1378-89) enshrined the heads of SS Peter and Paul in silver reliquaries in the baldacchino above the high altar, where they still are.
Pope Martin V (1417-1431) restored the nave roof again, and had the extant Cosmatesque floor laid. He also commissioned Gentile da Fabriano and Pisanello to fresco the interior, resulting in a superb display only known through drawings that Borromeo ordered to be made before he supervised the destruction of the frescoes. Pope Eugene IV (1431–1447) oversaw the completion of this restoration project. The colonnades of the central nave had become dangerous (the ancient granite columns were probably cracked and spalled by fire), and were now systematically replaced by brick piers with arcade arches instead of a horizontal entablature. The north end of the transept was given a proper façade, involving a large Gothic arched doorway with several orders of molding and a tympanum, over which was a small round window and then a cavetto cornice which curved outwards. This last feature was drawn by Heemskerck, but without a mosaic (the idea of the curve is that a mosaic would not seem fore-shortened to somebody standing in front of the door).
The Fifth Council of the Lateran was held here in 1512. This was the old palace's swan-song.
Pope Paul III (1534-49) rebuilt the dome of the baptistery. He also proposed the demolition of the palace to provide materials for the future repair of the basilica -it is obvious that the vast old complex was now derelict. The ancient sculptures in the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, including the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, were donated to the city and taken to the Campodoglio in 1558.
Pope Pius IV (1559-65) embellished the baptistery, and also provided the extant nave ceiling of the basilica. The two campanili were remodelled in the style that they now have.
Pope Gregory XIII (1572-85) cleared the present Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano for the Jubilee year of 1575, by demolishing the Annibaldi palace. The present baptistery entrance was made then, allegedly, which would have entailed demolishing the atrium of the Chapel of the Holy Cross (see below).
Sixtus V Edit
Pope Sixtus V (1585-90) oversaw enormous changes to the complex. Firstly, he ordered the demolition of the old palace in 1586 and its replacement by the present smaller edifice by Domenico Fontana. This was finished in 1589, and was intended as a summer palace for the popes. However, they preferred the Quirinal Palace because it was at a higher elevation -cooler and with fewer malarial mosquitoes. The new palace never found a proper use until recently.
The pope's attention to the city's street system led to the provision of a new main road from the basilica to Santa Maria Maggiore, the present Via Merulana.
The pope specified that the 13th century private palace chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum was to be kept, and Fontana enclosed this in a new building also containing the Scala Santa which he had transferred from its original position in the north entrance porch of the old palace. This stand-alone edifice is now usually known as the Scala Santa.
Fontana also laid out the present Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. He brought in and erected the obelisk, and provided an entrance loggia for the north end of the basilica's transept. The new civic space was the terminus of the equally new Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, laid out from the Colosseum in order to give a proper direct route from the city for papal processions. This was completed in 1588, and replaced the closely parallel but unsuitable Via dei Quattro Coronati which was no better than a bridle path.
Very unfortunately, Fontana also demolished the ancient Oratory of the Holy Cross in 1588 -this was an enormous loss.
Oratory of the Holy Cross Edit
The Oratorio della Santa Croce had been founded by Pope Hilary in the 5th century. It was originally a mausoleum (?) dating to around the year 200, with a plan of a Greek cross inserted into a chamfered square. There was a central octagonal dome, with a high drum topped by a shallow tiled cupola. The location was just to the north-east of the baptistery, with a public entrance in the north-west cross arm and another entrance in the north-east arm which led into a rectangular atrium colonnaded on its west and south sides. The latter side contained an entrance into the baptistery, which is now the main public entrance to that edifice.
Much of the ancient pagan decorative elements had survived, including polychrome marble inlay work on the walls and a mosaic showing four genii in the interior of the dome. These were left alone when the building was converted, as they could be regarded as angels, but the central tondo was given a mosaic of the Cross in the 5th century. A fragment of the True Cross was venerated here in mediaeval times.
The little atrium was noted as being especially beautiful, with columns of porphyry and coloured marbles, ancient sarcophagi converted into fountains, marble screens and mosaics.
Baroque remodelling Edit
In 1646, the patched-up basilica was in danger of collapsing. Pope Innocent X gave the task of restoring the fabric to Francesco Borromini, in preparation for the Holy Year of 1650. However the work went on for so long that the date was missed, and the project was only completed in 1660. By that time the pope was dead, and had been succeeded by Alexander VII. The latter brought the ancient bronze doors from Sant'Adriano, the ancient Curia Iulia, and installed them as the central entrance doors.
It was as a result of Borromini's restoration that the church was given its present Baroque appearance, and it no longer looks like ancient basilica. Only the gilded ceiling and the Cosmatesque floor were kept, although Borromini had intended to provide a vault for the central nave. The ceiling has since been restored and altered considerably, whereas Borromini had the floor carefully repaired. The dimensions of the edifice were not changed.
The major structural change was that the square piers of the central arcades were removed and replaced with massive rectangular piers each with an apsidal niche on its inner face. There are five of these piers on each side, with a sixth attached to the counterfaçade. Controversially, Borromini also removed the ancient verde antico aisle columns, and put them into store. Then he replaced them with ten square piers on either side, with an eleventh on the steps leading up to the transept. The inner side aisles he arch-vaulted, with saucers alternating with short barrel vaults behind the central piers. The outer side aisles he gave flat vaults, with the bays separated by trabeations.
Many of the ancient verde antico columns re-used to embellish Baroque aedicules inserted into the niches in the central piers. These remained empty until 1702, when they were used to display colossal statues of the twelve apostles. The project was ordered by Pope Clement XI, and supervised by Cardinal Benedetto Pamphilj who was Archpriest (priest-in-charge) of the basilica. This work was finished in 1718.
New portico Edit
Meanwhile, the Lateran Palace remained underused. Pope Innocent XII (1691-1700) actually established an orphanage here, with the orphans put to work in weaving silk.
The next major intervention was for the Jubilee of 1750. Pope Clement XII began the project in good time by holding a competition in 1732 for the design of a new façade and portico to replace the mediaeval one. The surprise winner was Alessandro Galilei, a Florentine hardly well-known in Rome. However, the choice was prescient because Galilei was an anti-Baroque forerunner of the neo-Classical architectural movement, and had already been involved in the neo-Palladian architectural movement in England and Ireland. It is claimed that Christopher Wren's work in London was a major influence on him. The new portico was completed in 1735.
In 1775, the nave ceiling was restored.
19th century Edit
The interior of the Lateran Palace was restored in 1838, after it had become very messy. The edifice had been seriously abused under the batrachian occupation government of the French under Napoleon from 1808 to 1814.
In 1851, Pope Pius IX employed Filippo Martinucci to restore the high altar, and to provide the present confessio or devotional crypt. After the annexation of Rome by Italy in 1870, this pope and his two successors sulked in the Vatican (the self-proclaimed title "Prisoner of the Vatican" was mendacious) and did not visit the basilica for over half a century.
The last major intervention in the fabric was in 1878, when Pope Leo XIII commissioned the Vespignanis, father and son, to extend the sanctuary by one bay and so to provide a proper choir for the canons. This was done by demolishing the mediaeval apse, and with it the famous apse mosaic by Torriti -a surprising act of vandalism at so late a date. The work was completed in 1884. The new apse was provided with a copy of the lost mosaic, which is often described as the old one carefully transferred -this is not the case. Art critics of the time who saw both old and new mosaics were not kind about the latter.
After the demolition of the old apse, possibly in 1880, it was realized that substantial remains of ancient buildings existed beneath the basilica. A limited excavations was carried out, which revealed a large house around a trapezoidal courtyard which was predictably hailed as the Domus Faustae.
The present church measures 130 by 54 metres as a result of the extension of the sanctuary.
Museums in the palace Edit
Some use was found for the palace in the 19th century, as an overflow for the Vatican Museums.
Pope Gregory XVI (1831–1846) established the Museo Profano Lateranense (or Museo Gregoriano Profano) in 1844 which was made up of statues, bas-relief sculptures and mosaics of the Roman era. It was expanded in 1854 under Pius IX (1846–1878) with the addition of the Museo Pio Cristiano. The collection was assembled by the archaeologists Father Giuseppe Marchi and Giovanni Battista de Rossi. Marchi collected the sculptured monuments of the early Christian ages, while de Rossi the ancient Christian inscriptions; a third department of the museum consisted of copies of some of the more important catacomb frescoes. Father Marchi was appointed the director of the new institution. In 1910, under the pontificate of Pius X (1903–1914), the Hebrew Lapidary (Lapidario Ebraico) was established. This section contained 137 inscriptions from ancient Hebrew cemeteries in Rome mostly from via Portuense. The Museo Missionario Etnografico was founded by Pius XI with the documents and relics exhibited in Rome at the Missionary Exposition in 1925, and included historical documents of Missions and relics from the people where these missions took place. The three collections were transferred, under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII (1958–1963), from the Lateran Palace to the Vatican. They were reopened to the public in 1970. Their collections are still called "ex Lateranense" to indicate their former place of display.
In 1929, the Lateran Treaty finally regularized the relationships between the Holy See and Italy, and the basilical complex became an extra-territorial entity. This means that the territory remains with Italy, but all administration is vested entirely in Vatican City. The area concerned includes the basilical complex with the palace and monastery, also the Scala Santa with its attached monastery in a detached portion. Pope Pius XI gave a home in the complex to the University of the Pontifical Roman Seminary, which had been founded by Pope Clement XIV in 1773 when he suppressed the Jesuits (previously in charge of training the diocesan clergy). The institution still has its headquarters here, although now it is called the Pontifical Lateran University.
Further excavations under the church were carried out 1934–1938, the opportunity being taken with a restoration of the Cosmatesque floor. These revealed the remains of the barracks of the Equites singulari, which are substantial because of the way that the rooms of the edifice had been packed with rubble to form a platform on which to build the basilica. It was merely a case of removing the rubble, taking care not to undermine the church's foundations.
Pope St John XXIII finally gave the Palace a proper function, by establishing the offices of the Vicariate of the Diocese of Rome here. The Vatican Museum departments previously here were taken back to the Vatican. A new museum illustrating the history of the Papal States, the Museo Storico Vaticano, was opened in the palace in 1991.
On 23 July 1993, a Mafia car bomb damaged the façades of the palace and basilica in Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. The 1992-3 Mafia bombing campaign was the result of certain seriously lunatic Sicilian "businessmen" thinking that they could terrorize both the Church and the Italian government. They were wrong. Here, the damage was quickly repaired by 1996.
A new bronze Holy Door was installed for the Jubilee of 2000, designed by Floriano Bodini.
Layout of locality Edit
The Lateran is a well-defined locality in an area of 19th century suburban development of little more interest than the vineyards that it replaced. The gigantic statues of Christ and the apostles over the façade of the basilica feature in many views of the city, but the basilica itself hides itself surprisingly well close-up.
To its north-west is the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano with its obelisk, and this has been historically the main focus of the church's civic presence. To the east of the piazza is the bulk of the Lateran Palace, occupying the north side of the nave and hiding any view of it. South is the prominent façade of the north end of the transept, the Loggia of Benedictions (a poor substitute for the grand mediaeval one). To the south-west is the Baptistery, and beyond that are the buildings of the university. To the west are the buildings of the men's department of the Ospedale di San Giovanni by Giacomo Mola 1634, and what looks like a church in the north-west corner is the end of the ward wing of the women's department by Giovanni Antonio de' Rossi 1666.
If you walk eastwards along the main road, you will see the façade of the Scala Santa straight ahead on the other side of the road from the palace. Then, round the corner of the palace on the right, is the main façade of the basilica overlooking the large trapezoidal grassed area of the Piazza di Porta San Giovanni.
Many people enter the church from the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano - note that this entrance is, in effect, the back door, and you will get a very different and better impression of the church if you enter from the front on your first visit.
Layout and fabric of basilica Edit
The basilica's fabric is in brick. There is uncertainty and argument as how much of the original 4th century brickwork remains in the fabric, with some thinking that there is very little.
The central nave, transept and sanctuary are under one pitched and tiled roof in the form of a Latin cross. The side aisles have lower roofs, which are now flat, and the apse is roofed in lead. The façade block by Galalei is a separate structure architecturally, and has its own pitched and tiled roof.
There are five large external chapels off the nave side aisles, added by the simple expedient of knocking holes through the outer side walls of the church in order to provide access. The two to the north are entirely hidden by the palace; the eastern one is the Cappella Torlonia and has a little dome in lead, while the western one is the Cappella Massimo and has a simple pitched and tiled roof. The three to the south are interesting studies in architectural contrasts. The one to the east is on a Greek cross plan with side apses, and is the Cappella Corsini. It has a hemispherical dome in lead on a circular brick drum with large rectangular windows, which you can see if you peer round the left hand corner of the entrance façade. The middle chapel is the Cappella Antonelli, which is rectangular externally and has an elliptical dome which is tiled in a smooth curve (no sectors). The western chapel has an oval (egg-shaped) dome, tiled in ten sectors.
To the south of the transept is the mediaeval cloister, and to the west of the south side of the transept is the large sacristy wing which extends well beyond the apse. The baptistery with its four subsidiary chapels is a stand-alone edifice on a different axis, at an angle to the major axis of the church to the north-west of the apse.
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano Edit
The piazza is now dominated by a very wide, busy and horrifying main road which basically ruins it as a civic space. However, it is the surviving area of the ancient Campus Lateranensis which was the mustering-ground of both the basilica and the palace throughout mediaeval times. (The main entrance of the basilica faced away from the city and over a slope, so the mustering-ground was not established there.) Here stood the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius before it was moved to the Campodoglio in 1538.
The present layout (minus the road, but with the obelisk) was the work of Domenico Fontana in 1588. The piazza was designed to be the terminus of the new papal processional road of the Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, opened in the same year for Pope Sixtus V.
This street was declared to be the city's Via Gay by the municipality in 2007 and, as such, has its own web-page here which is winsomely pastel compared to similar offerings from other European cities.
The piazza's furnishings were renewed and modified by Valadier in the 1830's.
In Egypt Edit
The pink granite obelisk was originally quarried in the Northern Quarry at Aswan, Egypt on the orders of Pharaoh Tuthmosis III (1479 to 1425 BC) of the Eighteenth Dynasty. He apparently intended it to be one of a pair (as all other known obelisks are), and it is thought that the twin would have been the Unfinished Obelisk, still in the quarry after it was abandoned when a flaw developed in the stone. There is a strong suspicion that the original commissioner was Hatshepsut, the "queen pharaoh" who temporarily supplanted Tuthmosis when he was a boy.
The obelisk is a monolith or single piece of stone, 32 metres high and weighing an estimated 455 tons. It is the largest obelisk known. About one to four metres of its seriously damaged base was sawn off before it was re-erected here. The Ancient Egyptians had no iron tools back then, so this work was quarried using diorite stone mauls to bash the rock and was finished using copper and bronze tools. This would have taken man-years of work.
A translation of the hieroglyphic inscriptions, too long to be given, is online here (search for "Obelisk now at the Lateran" on the web-page). As well as the usual formulaic incantations and boasts, it gives the interesting information that work was abandoned for 35 years after the death of the pharaoh. Then his son, Tuthmosis IV, had the obelisk erected at the eastern end of the temple of Amun Re in Karnak, Egypt, around 1390 BC.
The location of the obelisk was, it is thought, in the so-called "Temple of the Hearing Ear" which was a subsidiary temple just to the east of the enormous main one. It was rebuilt by Pharaoh Ramesses II, who added an inscription to the base of the obelisk. The temple's function was as a centre for receiving oracular pleas from ordinary people to the god Amun Re, hence the ancient name. On the plan here it is shown as the "Temple of Ramesses II".
Whereas St Peter certainly saw the obelisk now at Piazza San Pietro when he was being martyred in the adjacent ancient circus, Moses may very well have seen this one if he ever travelled to the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes (in his day, the pharaohs had their capital in the Delta region).
In ancient Rome Edit
The emperor Constantine ordered the obelisk to be taken to his new capital of Constantinople, but he died before it left Egypt. So it was brought to Rome by Constantius II, son of Constantine, and erected on the spina (central reservation) of the Circus Maximus. There it stood until it was toppled by an earthquake on an unknown date.
Pope Sixtus V was told of its documented existence, and it was found in 1587 seven metres below the surface of the vegetable gardens that the Circus had become, broken in three pieces. The pope had it restored, and erected on its present location on 3 August 1588. The work was overseen by Fontana, who signed the plinth in satisfaction.
Present appearance Edit
The obelisk stands on a tall limestone plinth. The side of this which faces the basilica bears an inscription which mentions the baptism of Constantine in the baptistery here, a legend that it historically inaccurate (he was actually baptized on his deathbed at Nicomedia in what is now Turkey). The other sides bear epigraphs describing the finding and re-erection.
When it was new back in Egypt, the pyramidion (point) of the obelisk would have been plated with electrum which, as a rare naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold, the Egyptians prized more than gold. Pope Sixtus had a bronze cross put on top instead, set on stylized mountains, star and pear-holding lions which occur in his coat-of-arms (the mountains and star originated with the Chigi family, although he was a Peretti -hence the pears).
The side of the plinth facing the main road has a fountain, featuring an eagle and two dragons from the heraldry of Pope Paul V (1605-21) who was a Borghese. However, the sides of the gigantic curlicues show the lion-and-pears motif of Pope Sixtus V which show that Pope Paul usurped the work.
Loggia of Benedictions Edit
Loggia façade Edit
The present Loggia of Benedictions occupies the entrance façade at the north end of the transept of the basilica, and replaced the mediaeval one. It is is by Domenico Fontana, who designed it in 1586. The edifice has two structurally identical storeys, each with five large arched portals with simply molded archivolts springing from Doric imposts. The arches are separated by pilasters supporting an entablature, and a pair of pilasters occupies each end.
The first storey is the entrance loggia, approached by a short flight of steps. The pilasters of this storey are Doric, and the frieze of the entablature has metopes with Eucharistic symbols. The cornice is dentillated. The spandrels of the arches have stars, stylized mountains and lions holding pear-boughs, all from the heraldry of Pope Sixtus. The railings were added by Pope Clement XII, and incorporate his heraldry.
The second storey is Corinthian, and has a low pin balustrade in the arches. The central arch's balustrade is slightly higher, and has two panels bearing the coat-of-arms of Pope Sixtus The entablature has an inscription Sixtus p[a]p[a] V ad benedictiones extruxit MDLXXXVI ("Pope Sixtus V built it for blessings, 1536"). The cornice is also dentillated, but also has little lions' masks. Above, there is another pin balustrade with two more coats-of-arms. The arch spandrels in this storey have Sistine heraldic elements too, except that the lions are replaced by simple pear boughs (a visual pun or rebus on the name Peretti).
Transept frontage and campanili Edit
Above the loggia you can see the façade of the end of the transept. It is flanked by two low Romanesque bell-towers, given their present form by Pope Pius IV (1559-65) whose heraldry is on display in two gigantic panels (the shield with balls is of the Medici family). The wall surfaces are made to look like ashlar blocks with wide joints, except for a large rectangular panel in the centre below the horizontal roofline which is panelled with re-used ancient marble revetting slabs mostly in bluish-grey.
Below this marble panelling is a dentillated arc, enclosing a tondo which contains a little round window and some exposed brickwork. The bricks on view are re-used ancient ones. This is the only place where you can see the actual mediaeval brick fabric of the basilica.
The twin campanili are rather squat, and have pyramidal spires with ball finials. Each has three storeys separated by dentillated cornices, the upper two storeys having soundholes in the form of an arcade of three arches separated by little columns.
19th century additions Edit
The block to the right of the Loggia was added at the end of the 19th century as part of the re-modelling of the basilica's sanctuary. The Vespignanis, father and son, who were responsible, made a commendable effort in matching the structure both to the Loggia next door and to the palace façade. There is a three-arched portico on the ground floor with the arches separated by paired Doric pilasters, and a second storey with paired Corinthian pilasters. The separating entablature has triglyphs on its frieze, in proper Doric style. The three windows in the top storey have a central segmental pediment flanked by two triangular ones, in imitation of the palace.
The strange kiosk to the right is part of the same 19th century project, and has a large open Doric arch on each of its three sides, matching the loggia. What was it designed for?
The vaults and lunettes of the interiors of both the entrance portico and the loggia of benedictions have frescoes that were executed in 1588 by a group of artists led by Giovanni Guerra and Cesare Nebbia. In the portico vault are represented the heavenly host: Our Lady and the Apostles with prophets, martyrs, holy popes, virgins and other saints together with angels. The vault of the loggia has scenes from the martyrdom of St Peter and the conversion of Constantine, as well as Old Testament scenes and Doctors of the Church accompanied by angels and allegorical figures. The far wall has a large depiction of Pope Sixtus accompanied by cardinals in its centre.
The bronze statue to the left in the entrance portico is of Henry IV of France, who was reckoned as a benefactor of the basilica. It is by Nicolas Cordier 1608. The king had confirmed a donation of the ancient but rotten abbey of Clairac, the monks of which had apostatized to become Protestants in 1565. The Chapter of the Lateran obtained the property in 1604, but then oversaw a shocking and disgusting series of scandals involving the resident abbey clergy and those of the diocese of Agen. For example, one canon sent to be the administrator by the Chapter built a mansion in the city for his sodomisée mistress out of abbey funds (following the neat delusion that priestly celibacy is only breached by vaginal sex). Despite, the Chapter voted to make the reigning King of France an honorary canon in gratitude, and this conceit is still offered to the President of the Republic of France. The crawling epigraph on the pedestal is here.
To the right in the portico is a marble tablet bearing a copy of the bull of 1372 by Pope Gregory XI which proclaimed the basilica the first in dignity of all churches.
Lateran palace Edit
The vast warren of the mediaeval Lateran Palace was finally demolished by Pope Sixtus V (1585–1590) after being derelict for decades. The new buildings he erected formerly housed the Pontifical Museum of Christian Antiquities, and are now the offices of the Diocese of Rome. A small part of the old palace is preserved.
The surrounding areaEdit
In front of the church is a junction where traffic leaves and enters the walled city by the 16th century Porta San Giovanni and the Porta Asinaria. The latter is the gate by which Totila the Goth entered Rome in 547.
If you look towards Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, you can see the bronze sculpture of St Francis with his disciples. The statue depicts an event from the life of the saint. While he was in Rome to get the Holy Father's approval for his Order, Pope Innocent III saw in a dream that a man was supporting the basilica, which was on the verge of collapse. The next day, he met St Francis and recognized in him the saint sent by God to restore the church - not only St John Lateran but the Church in general.
To your left as you face the statue of St Francis is a group of buildings with the apse mosaic of the papal dining hall, Triclinium Leoninum, now on the outside of the remains of the building. It depicts Christ with the Apostles in the centre; Christ with Constantine and Pope Sylvester I on the left; and St Peter, Pope Leo III and Charlemagne on the right. Pope Leo III has a square nimbus, showing that he was alive when it was made. The mosaic has been dated to the year 800, when Charlemagne was crowned in Rome.
The main façade is the work of Alessandro Galilei, from 1736. The first stone was laid by Pope Clement XII on 8 December, 1735. It has five large arches opening on the narthex, and is crowned by c. 7 metre high statues of Christ, Sts John the Baptist and John the Evangelist and other saints. The full list of the large statues, with the artists' names, is:
- Jesus Christ by P. Benaglia
- St John the Baptist by B. Pincellotti
- St John the Evangelist by D. Scaramuccia
- St Gregory the Great by Giovanni Battista de Rossi
- St Jerome by A. Corsini
- St Ambrose by A. Benaglia
- St Augustine by B. Ludovisi
- St Athanasius by P. l'Eastache
- St Basil by G. Riccardi
- St John Chrysostom by G. Frascari
- St Gregory Nazianz by C. Taodardini
- St Bernard by T. Brandini
- St Thomas Aquinas by P. Latour
- St Bonaventure by B. Casoni
- St Eusebius of Vercelli by G.F. Lazzoni
The Loggia of Blessings is in the centre. From it, a newly elected Pope gives his blessing on the day that he first takes possession of the cathedral.
The façade faces the east, as the basilica was built before the tradition of placing the altar in the east had taken hold in Rome.
Narthex/vestibuleEditThe portico, which measures 10 by 50 metres, is also by Galilei. It has barrel vaults decorated with recessed panels, similar to those of San Pietro in Vaticano.
The border is a 17th century addition, as the doorway was too large for the doors.The door to the far right is the Holy Door, which is only open during Holy Years.
- The Baptism of John by B. Ludovisi
- John the Baptist's Prayer by Giovanni Battista Maini
- John the Baptist before Herod by Pietro Bracci
- The Decapitation of St John the Baptist by Francesco della Valle
The Cosmatesque floor is from the 14th century, a late example of this technique. It was paid by the Colonna family, and completed in its present form in 1425 under Pope Martin V. The family's coat-of-arms can be seen in several places on the floor.
The coffered ceiling is from the 18th century. In the transept, you can see the earlier coffered ceiling. There are three papal arms in the ceiling: Those of Pope Pius IV (Medici, 1559-1565) in the centre, and those of St. Pius V] (1566-1572) and Pius VI] (1775-1799) to the sides. Pope Pius VI was responsible for the last restoration, hiring Daniele da Volterra to give it its present look.The statues on the nave pillars, placed here during Pope Clement XI's pontificate (1701–1721) depict Apostles and Evangelists. Behind the statues, closed doors are painted on the wall. They represent the gateways to Heavenly Jerusalem. They can all be identified by clear attributes.
Above the statues are relief panels with Old Testament scenes on the left and related scenes from the New Testament on the right. The 17th century panels are by Alessandro Algardi. Above those are oval paintings of prophets, also from the 17th century.
Starting on the left side, from the entrance, the statues, reliefs and paintings on the pillars depict (with the statues' attributes in parenthesis) and were made by:
- Simon (saw) made by Francesco Maratti in 1718; relief of Jonah and the Whale; painting of Micah by P. Ghezzi
- Bartholomew (skin and flaying knife) made by Pierre Legros in 1712; relief of The Crossing of the Red Sea by M. Anguier; painting of Obadiah by Giuseppe Chiari
- James the Less (book and walking stick) made by Angelo de Rossi in 1715; relief of Joseph being Sold by his Brothers by F. Pinazzi; painting of Joel by Luigi Garzi
- John the Evangelist (book of the Gospel and eagle) made by Camillo Rusconi in 1712; relief of The Sacrifice of Abraham by D. Rossi; painting of Daniel by A. Procaccini
- Andrew (St Andrew's cross) made by Camillo Rusconi in 1709; relief of The Flood by M. Anguier; painting of Baruch by Francesco Trevisani
- Peter (keys) made by Pierre Monnot in 1706; relief of The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise by G.B. Morelli; painting of Isaiah by Benedetto Luti
And on the right side, again starting from the entrance:
- Thaddeus (lance) made by Lorenzo Ottoni in 1712; relief of The Resurrection of Christ by G. Lazzoni; painting of Nahum by Domenico Maria Muratori
- Matthew (book of the Gospel) made by Camillo Rusconi in 1715; relief of Christ entering Limbo by G.F: Rossi; painting of Jonah by M. Benefial
- Philip (cross overwhelming the Dragon) made by Giuseppe Mazzuoli in 1715; relief of The Arrest of Christ by A. Grenoble; painting of Amos by G.N. Nasini
- Thomas (set square and cross with dove) made by Pierre Legros in 1711; relief of Jesus Falling under the Cross by Antonio Raggi; painting of Hosea by G. Odazzi
- James the Great (walking stick) made by Camillo Rusconi in 1718; relief of The Baptism of Christ by Antonio Raggi; painting of Ezekiel by P. Melchiorri
- Paul (sword and book) made by Pierre Monnot in 1708; relief of The Crucifixion of Christ by M. Anguier; painting of Jeremiah by S. Conca
Between this and the next chapel, is the tomb of Cardinal Giulio Acquaviva, Bishop of Atri. It was made by Isaia da Pisa in 1574, and is flanked by statues portraying personifications of Temperance and Prudence.John Nepomucenus, was ordered by Prince Alessandro Torlonia, and designed on a Greek cross plan by Quintilliano Raimondi in 1838. The relief of "The Deposition" of the body of Christ by Pietro Tenerani was made in 1844. There are monuments to Giovanni Torlonia and his wife Anna. This is one of the last chapels built for a noble family in Rome.
The altar has a front of Russian malachite and lapis lazuli, and sides of Oriental alabaster.
The chapel is domed, and on top of the corbels are statues of the Evangelists by Pietro Galli. The same artist made the four statues of virtues in the niches: Strength, Temperance, Justice and Prudence.
A statue of St James by the school of Andrea Bregno supposedly stood outside the chapel, but it has been removed at some time during the last 50 years.
Giacomo della Porta designed the chapel in the 16th century. The fragment of a statue of St James above the metal grating has been attributed to Andrea Bregno; it was moved here from the old San Pietro in Vaticano.
The oil painting known as the Sermoneta, which depicts Golgotha, was painted by G. Sicciolante.
A bit further down the aisle are the tombs of Pope Alexander III and Pope Sergius IV, both designed by Borromini. In the same area is the Cosmatesque tomb of the Milanese Cardinal Conte Casati (died in 1287). The sarcophagus from the same year was erected by Cardinal Giacomo Colonna. Above it is a bas relief, Cardinal Colonna is presented to Christ by St John, made by Deodato in 1297. The tomb of Cardinal Ranuccio Farnese, nephew of Pope Paul III, is by Vignola, from the 16th century. The monument to Cardinal Antonio Martinez-Chiavez is by Isaia da Pisa, made in the 15th century. The frame was added by Borromini.
Chapel of the CrucifixionEdit
The chapel is also known as the Chapel of St John the Evangelist (there is also a chapel of that name in the baptistry), and the Ceci Chapel after the donor.
On the right side is the tomb of Cosimo Inghirami.
Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico is buried here, in a tomb by Antonio d'Este made in 1803. Also found here is the tomb of the humanist Valla, a Canon Regular of the Lateran. It was originally located in the church, possibly in this chapel, but was moved to the cloister. In 1825, it was moved back here; all this is recorded in the inscription.
High altarEditThe Gothic baldachino is by Giovanni di Stefano (another picture), and was made c. 1367, under Pope Urban V. It has a relic chamber at the top, in which the heads, or part of the heads, of Sts Peter and Paul are preserved according to tradition. They may have been removed during the French occupation of Rome in the late 18th century. There are two statues of saints above at each corner above the four columns. A fresco runs around the baldachino, with four scenes from the New Testament and an additional Marian scene, painted by Barna di Siena. The scenes depicted are The Annunciation, The Nativity, The Crucifixion and The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin.
Part of a table said to be from the home of St Pudens, with whom St Peter the Apostle stayed, is incorporated in the altar. St Peter is said to have celebrated the Eucharist at this table.
The altar is a Papal altar, reserved for the Holy Father.
ConfessioEditThe confessio was rebuilt by Pope St Pius IX (1846–1878). Pope Martin V (1417-1431) is buried there. His bronze tomb, c. 1443, is by Simone di Giovanni Ghini, a pupil of Donatello.The inscription describes Martin V as "temporum suorum felicitas", "the joy of his times". As at San Paolo fuori le Mura, people throw coins into the confessio. At the altar is a statue of St John the Baptist.
Apse and sanctuaryEdit
The choir behind the high altar was rebuilt in the late 19th century by Virginio Vespignani; he completed work in 1884. The apse was moved some twenty metres backwards, allowing a larger choir while at the same time preserving the mosaic.
The apse mosaic was made 1291–1292 by two Franciscan friars, Jacopo da Camerino and Jacopo Torriti, on orders from Pope Nicholas IV. You can see their self-portraits among the Apostles below the main mosaic. The Pope kneeling close to the Blessed Virgin is Nicholas IV, who was praised for his work at the Lateran by Dante in Paradiso. The Virgin places her hand on his head, as a sign of her protection. Above the gemmed crucifix, which was reused from a 9th century mosaic, is the Holy Spirit, shown as a dove. Water flowing from its beak divides into four streams, symbolizing the four-fold Gospel, which run into the Jordan, a symbol of Baptism. The city between the streams is Heavenly Jerusalem, and in the city the phoenix, a symbol of immortality, is perched on the Tree of Life. Sts Peter and Paul, and an armed angel, are guarding the city. To the left of the Blessed Virgin stands, besides Nicholas IV, St Francis of Assisi and the Apostles Peter and Paul. To the right of the crucifix are Sts John the Baptist, Antony of Padua, John the Evangelist and Andrew.
In the upper part of the mosaic, dated to the 4th century but restored and incorporated into the main mosaic in the 13th century, is Christ's head surrounded by seraphim. This is not merely decoration, but a reference to the tradition that Christ appeared during the original consecration of the basilica. The motif occurs in other places too, such as on farms in the countryside that are or were owned by the Lateran.
Between the windows below are mosaics of seven more Apostles, with the two artists at their feet. They carry their own attributes, the set square, compasses and mason's hammer.
It is raised four steps from the level of the nave. The ceiling here was preserved by Borromini; in its centre is a gilded bust of Christ flanked by Sts Peter, Paul, John the Evangelist and John the Baptist, made in 1592 by Taddeo Landini. To the sides are the arms of Pope Clement VIII.
In each arm of the transept, there are five reliefs of Angels at Prayer by the Mannerist Camillo Mariani.
There is also a cycle of frescoes depicting scenes from the Life of Constantine. They were painted at the end of the 16th century by the Mannerists Pomarancio, Paris Nogari and Giovanni Battista Ricci. In the right arm of the transept are The Baptism of Constantine, Pope Sylvester is Found on Mt Soratte, The Foundation of the Lateran Basilica, The Consecration of the Lateran Basilica. Above the frescoes are figures of the Apostles.
Shop and treasuryEdit
A shop has been opened off the right arm of the transept. The Treasury, a museum, lies beyond this shop. There is a fee to enter the Treasury, which has mainly late Renaissance vestments, but also some other objects. Among the most interesting items are the "Golden Rose", a papal gift associated with Laetare Sunday, and a crucifix, probably of the 14th century but close to the Romanesque style, with biblical scenes.
Colonna Chapel and Winter Choir of the CanonsEdit
The chapel was designed by Giacomo Rainaldi for the Colonna family c. 1625. The woodcarvings are his work. The painting of Christ between the two Sts John is by Baciccia. In the vault is the fresco The Coronation of the Virgin by Baldassare Croce.
Altar of the Blessed SacramentEditThe altar, made by Pier Paolo Olivieri c. 1600, enshrines a table traditionally said to be that used by Christ at the Last Supper. The marble and bronze columns incorporated in the altar are said to have been taken from the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. The bronze columns in that temple had been recast from the bronze prows of Cleopatra's ships, taken in battle by Emperor Augustus.
To the right of the altar, above the door to the sacristy is a monument to Pope Leo XIII, who is buried in the church, by Giulio Tadolini. It was made in 1907. The pope is depicted in benediction, flanked by a the personification Faith and a worker. The latter may seem out of place; it is a reference to the Encyclical Rerum novarum, in which Leo XIII dealt with the question of work in systematic manner. The document was instrumental in bringing about the modern social doctrine of the Church.
The entrance to the cloisters is at the end of the left aisle near the transept. They were decorated in the Cosmatesque style by the Vassalletti. Much of the mosaic is lost, and the cloisters are in a general state of disrepair. This is probably a result of neglect during the period when the papacy was based at Avignon in the 14th century.There are many fragments of ancient and medieval sculpture here. Some of them are said to be relics, such as a porphyry slab said to be the stone on which the soldiers diced for Christ's robes. No ancient tradition supports this claim, which seems very unlikely. Among the more interesting object are a bust of St Helena from the 4th century and the tomb of of Cardinal Riccardo Annibaldi by Arnolfo di Cambio, 13th century.
There is a small fee to enter the cloisters.
Chapel of the TransitionEdit
The Death of the Virgin Mary is of the school of Giotto, 14th century.
To the right of the entrance is the tomb of Cardinal Bernardino Caracciolo, from the 13th century.Clement XII (Lorenzo Corsini) is by Giovanni Battista Maini and Carlo Monaldi, c. 1740. Clement XII is buried in the crypt beneath the chapel. The tomb of Cardinal Neri Maria Corsini is also by Maini.
In the early Church, baptism was usually given by the bishops in an annual ceremony during the Easter Vigil. In Rome, this was done in the baptistery of this church, which was dedicated to St John the Baptist. This was the first structure built for this specific purpose in Rome. It is a separate building, and is today usually accessed through a side entrance. The main entrance is the one facing the basilica (through the Chapel of St Venantius), making it easy to move in procession from the basilica.
The baptistery was ordered by Constantine. Its octagonal shape is typical of early baptistries. The huge font allowed candidates to stand in water (supplied by the ancient aqueduct Aqua Claudia) to their knees while more water was poured over their heads three times. This is known as partial immersion, and became common in the West at an early stage. The structure was restored by Pope Sixtus III in the 5th century, and the lower level now appears much as it did at that time. The second level and the dome were redesigned in 1637.
The doctrine of baptism as spiritual rebirth, and the sacrament's connection to the sacrifice of Christ, is set out in eight inscriptions. As an example, one of them reads: FONS HIC EST VITAE, QUI TOTUM DILUIT ORBEM SUMENS DE CHRISTI VULNERE PRINCIPIUM, meaning "This is the fountain of life, which cleanses the whole world, taking its course from the wound of Christ".
With time, the dedication of the baptistry came to be used about the basilica as a whole, and it was also applied to both the Baptist and the Evangelist.
Pictures in Wikimedia Commons.
Chapel of St VenantiusEdit
The main entrance to the baptistery is, as mentioned, through this chapel.
The mosaics are from the 7th century. They were commissioned by Pope John IV (640–642) in honour of the Dalmatian martyrs. John IV was a Dalmatian himself, and seeing that the Slavs where overrunning his country he brought the relics of the more important Dalmatian saints here. The mosaic is crowned by a bust of Christ emerging from a cloud, flanked by angels. Below is the Blessed Virgin standing in prayer with Apostles and other saints by her side. It appears to have been made by local artists influenced by the Byzantine tradition.
Chapel of St Secundus and St RufinaEdit
The mosaic, with a pattern of twining acanthus, is from the 5th century.
The Crucifixion is of the school of Andrea Bregno.
Chapel of St John the EvangelistEdit
The vault is decorated with a 5th century mosaic of the Lamb of God surrounded by a wreath of seasonal fruits. This is a good example of an early Christian mosaic in the Classical style.
Chapel of St John the BaptistEdit
The doors to the chapel are ancient, and are said to be made of an alloy of bronze, silver and gold. They give a pleasing sound when they move on their hinges, and the attendants are usually willing to demonstrate this if you ask them, unless there are too many people in the church.
The statue of the saint is by Valadier.
Scala Santa and Sancta SanctorumEdit
Across the street is a building housing the Scala Santa, the Holy Staircase, and the chapel known as the Sancta Sanctorum. The building was originally the Papal palace, used from the time of Constantine until the exile to Avignon in 1313.
The stairs are said to have been brought here from Pilate's house in Jerusalem, where Christ climbed them. The tradition is uncertain, but there is nothing that disproves it. They were said to have been brought to Rome by St Helena, Constantine's mother. It has 28 marble steps, now cased in wood. In several places, there are glass panes in the wood, through which one can see stains in the marble. These are said to be drops of Christ's blood, spilled when He walked the stairs. Many pilgrims come here to climb them, always on their knees, while contemplating on the Passion of Christ. It is said that the only person who gave up halfway up stairs is Martin Luther, who came here when he was still an Augustinian monk - but this might just be another joke about Luther. The 78 year old Pope Pius IX, in the other hand, managed to climb them on his knees on the eve of Victor Emmanuel's invasion of Rome.
At the top of the stairs are several chapels served by a Passionist community. The oldest is from the 8th century or earlier, and is known as the Sancta Sanctorum, or Holy of Holies. This name refers to the inner room in the Jewish Temple, which only the high priest could enter; it is a private chapel for the Pope. Above the entrance to the apse is the inscription NON EST IN TOTO SANCTIOR ORBE LOCUS; "there is no holier place in all the world". It was decorated by the Cosmati in the 12th century, and was actually signed. An inscription with beautiful Medieval lettering says MAGISTER COSMATUS FECIT HOC OPUS, meaning "Master Cosmatus made this work". The floor is a prime example of Cosmatesque work. The ceiling has a fresco showing the four beasts who sing a perpetual liturgy to God according to Scripture - a man, a lion, an ox and an eagle - and which came to be used as symbols for the Evangelists. On the walls are scenes of martyrdoms, including St Stephen the Deacon, Protomartyr of the Church, and Sts Peter and Paul. The latter are shown explicitly as suffering in Rome, as it was their martyrdoms that first turned the city into a holy place. It was formerly used as the relic treasury of the papal palace, and allegedly held such relics as a bit of bread from the Last Supper, St John the Baptist's coat, St Matthew's shoulder, St Bartholomew's chin, and the heads of Sts Peter, Paul, Agnes and Euphemia. There are still many relics and holy objects here, including ancient reliquaries with stones and earth from the Holy Land, brought back by pilgrims. Many of the reliquaries have Greek inscriptions, and are from the time before the Churches of the East and West were separated. You can look through a grille to see the Acheiropoeta, meaning 'not made with hands', an ancient icon of Christ said to have miraculously appeared. A 9th century mosaic of Christ and angels is not visible to the public.
Behind the chapel is a devotional area open to the public. It has a 16th century crucifix.
The basilica's website gives the following daily opening times:
Basilica: 7:00 to 18:30 (Tel. 06.98.86433).
Sacristy: 8:00 to 12:00, 16:00 to 18:00 (Tel. 06.698.86433).
Cloisters: 9:00 to 18:00 (there is an entry charge of two euros).
Baptistery (in practice, the parish church): 7:00 to 12:30, 16:00 to 19:00 (Tel. 06.698.86452).
Museum of the Basilica: 10:00 to 17:30 (Tel. 06.698.86409).
Historical Archives: 8:30 13:00 Monday to Friday only (Tel. 06.698.86580).
Mass is celebrated in the basilica itself:
7:00 (Altare del Santissimo)
7:30 (Cappella Massimo) (Not July and August)
8:00 (Cappella Adorazione)
9:00 (Cappella Massimo)
10:00 (Cappella Massimo) (Not July and August)
11:00 (Cappella Massimo) (July and August, Cappella Adorazione)
12:00 (Cappella dell’Adorazione) (Not July and August)
17:00 (Cappella dell’Adorazione) (Not Saturdays; 18:00 during Daylight Saving Time in summer).
Sundays and Solemnities:
16:00 SATURDAY OR VIGIL (Altare Papale)
18:00 SATURDAY OR VIGIL (Altare Papale)
7:00 (Altare del Santissimo)
8:00 (Cappella dell’Adorazione)
9:00 (Altare Papale)
10:00 (Altare Papale)
11:30 (Altare Papale)
12:30 (Altare Papale)
16:00 (Altare Papale) (Not August)
17:00 (Altare Papale) (Not July and August)
18:00 (Altare Papale)
Confessions are heard: 7:00 to 12:00, and 15:30 to 18:30.
The baptistery functions as the parish centre and the parish office is here, but obviously it is also the venue for the celebration of baptisms.
The diocesan web-page for the parish advises:
Mass on weekdays 7:50 (not July or August) and 18:00;
Mass on Sundays and Solemnities 11:00 and 18:00;
Baptisms are celebrated on Saturdays at 11:00 and 16:00, also Sundays at 9:30 and 16:00;
There is a "Students' Mass" (Messa Universitari) on Sundays at 19:00;
Rosary on Wednesday at 18:30.
HOWEVER, the parish web-site as at May 2015 advises only one daily Mass for the period June to September 2015, at 18:00.
Also, baptisms take place in this period on Saturdays 10:00 to 11:00 and 16:00 to 17:00, also Sundays 10:00 to 12:30 and 16:00 to 17:00.
The feast-day of the dedication of the basilica, celebrated by the entire Church, is 9 November and for its liturgy the basilica should be referred to simply as dedicated to Christ the Saviour, as laid down in the revised Roman martyrology.
The official name of the basilica in Italian is Santissimo Salvatore e Santi Giovanni Battista ed Evangelista in Laterano. However, this full title is not used for liturgical purposes.
The celebration has a rank of "Feast of the Lord" in the General Calendar, which means that it replaces any Sunday on which the date falls (most Feasts in the General Calendar of the Roman Catholic Church are supplanted by a Sunday, but Candlemas and the Transfiguration are other examples of Feasts of the Lord). It is a Solemnity in the Diocese of Rome.
- Official diocesan web-page
- Italian Wikipedia page
- Pictures of the basilica at Wikimedia Commons
- Google Earth
- Nolli map 1748
- Basilica's website (hosted by the Vatican)
- High-resolution virtual tours (part of the above website)
- Website of the baptistry (also of the parish)
- Info.roma web-page
- Romeartlover's web-page on the basilica
- Romeartlover's web-page on the piazza
- Constantius's obelisk (Article from Platner's "A Topographical History of Ancient Rome" 1929)
- Rome-Guide web-page
- Medioevo.roma web-page
- A plan of the basilica on Planetware
|The Seven Churches|
|San Pietro in Vaticano | San Paolo fuori le Mura | San Giovanni in Laterano | Santa Maria Maggiore | Santa Croce in Gerusalemme | San Lorenzo fuori le Mura | San Sebastiano fuori le Mura|