The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Lateran Hill (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) is a papal archibasilica located in Rome. In the hierarchy of Catholic churches, the Lateran Basilica stands at the highest level, surpassing the ancient and revered churches such as Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore) and St. Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro). It is in this church that the pulpit and throne of the pope are located.
In pre-Christian times, the lands near Celio Hill belonged to the wealthy Roman Laterani family. In the "Annals" of Tacitus, there is a mention of how, in the 1st century BC. Plauzio Laterano (Plauzio Laterano) was exposed in intrigues against the emperor Nero (Nerone).
The coup broke, and all the property of the rebellious Roman went to the imperial treasury.
In the 2nd century A.D. on the site of the Lateran Basilica, a powerful equestrian corps was set up for the troops of the Emperor Septimius Severo.
Confirmations of this fact were found during excavations in the vicinity of the temple. The founder of the basilica is considered to be the Roman emperor Flavio Valerio Constantine (Flavio Valerio Costantino). Before the decisive battle with Maxentius, Constantine the Great saw in the sky chrysism - a monogram of the name of Christ, which foreshadowed the victory. Thus, at the beginning of the III century, the ruler of the empire recognized freedom of religion, and the first Christian church appeared in Rome.
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in the 9th century was also dedicated to John the Baptist (San Giovanni Battista), in the 12th century to John the Theologian (San Giovanni Evangelista). From the 4th and 14th centuries, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist remained the only papal church. In the adjacent buildings were papal residences. The throne of the pontiff was installed in the church itself. The church has witnessed 5 ecumenical councils - the highest church congregations where cornerstone religious issues were addressed.
The richly cleaned Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Rome was repeatedly plundered and subsequently restored. In the second half of the fifth century, Pope Hilarion built a baptismal hall in a simple basilica. In addition to the font, three chapels were created in the baptistery, named after John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and the Holy Cross. In the IX century, Pope Leo III reconstructed the ceiling of the temple and decorated its apse with stained glass windows. In the X century, a chapel consecrated in honor of St. Thomas was added to the basilica.
During the XIV century, Rome lost its privilege to be considered the center of Christianity, the pontificate moved to French Avignon (Avignon).
In this century, the once majestic cathedral fell into decay and was twice put to fire. Upon the return of papal authority to Rome, the Lateran Basilica was forgotten, the Vatican was elected the new residence. The old building was almost destroyed.
Restoration of the temple in the 15th century was undertaken by Pope Martin V. Thanks to his efforts, the wall paintings of Gentile da Fabriano and his student, Pisanello (Antonio Pisanello), were restored. In the following decades, during the course of construction work, most of the Romanesque columns were destroyed in order to give way to the early baroque style. In the XVI century, the dome of the baptismal hall (baptistery) acquired an octagonal shape, which he retained until today.
During its existence, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist has undergone many changes. The exterior of the building demonstrates impregnations of the Romanesque style, classicism, baroque. Many characteristic elements of the decor of the temple were created during the XVII century. So, the engineer and architect Domenico Fontana (Domenico Fontana) decorated the facade of the church with sculptures of the apostles. Then Borromini (Francesco Borromini) took the trouble to rebuild the nave and the aisles of the basilica in the Baroque style. Magnificent bronze doors were taken from the Roman Forum, which currently serve as the main entrance to the temple.
The final appearance of San Giovanni in Laterano was formed in the XVIII century. The reconstruction of the church and the decoration of the facade was done by the architect Alessandro Galilei. His merit is strict classic columns and impressive statues installed above the entrance to the basilica.
In the XIX and XX centuries, the temple survived several restorations designed to preserve the historical appearance and content of the assignment. And by the 2000th anniversary of the assembly, the Holy Doors created by Floriano Bodini were opened.
The Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano amazes and fascinates with the beauty of the interior. The most valuable mosaics from the time of Emperor Constantine are preserved in the apse of the temple. The early Christian martyrs with scrolls in their hands, as well as the face of Jesus towering above them, are executed in a Byzantine manner. In the 13th century, mosaics underwent restoration of Yakomo Torriti (Giacomo Torriti). The master added to the ancient drawings the symbols of the Order of the Franciscans.
The pulpit is under the vault of the apse. Precious porphyry pillars and vibrant Byzantine mosaics serve as solemn decorations for the preaching of the pontiffs. Above the central altar of the temple in kevoria, ancient Christian relics are kept - the heads of the apostles Peter and Paul.
The nave of the temple amazes with its rich decoration. The mosaic floors are dotted with contrasting circles and squares, so characteristic of the cosmatic style. The columns of the nave are lined with Numidian marble. Snow-white plates are decorated with decorative carvings and pontiff emblems. Borromini put a lot of effort into the restoration of the nave in the 17th century. Particular attention is paid to the restored wooden ceiling of the nave, decorated with caisson ornaments. A panel with the coat of arms of Pope Pius V flaunts in the center of a rich carved ceiling. Statues and paintings depicting the apostles were installed between marble columns in the 17th-18th centuries.
In the nave of San Giovanni in Laterano, you can observe a partially preserved fresco depicting Pope Boniface III. The author of this skillful work is considered to be the great Giotto (Giotto di Bondone).
Inside the church there are several chapels, each of them has its own dedication.
The chapel of St. Mary of the Assumption (Capella S. Maria Assunta) appeared in the XVIII century to accommodate the tomb of Cardinal Giulio Aquavia, who died in the XVI century. Another chapel is dedicated to the martyr John of Nepomuk (San Giovanni Nepomuceno). It was created in the 19th century and is distinguished by its rich decoration: an altar inlaid with semiprecious stones, sculptures, the icon "Descent from the Cross".
The Massimo Chapel was designed by the architect Giacomo della Porta in the 16th century. The main relic of the chapel is the painting "Crucifixion of Christ". There is a chapel consecrated in honor of John the Theologian. It is decorated with a fresco depicting St. John, who had a vision of the Immaculate Virgin. In the chapel is the tomb of the Portuguese cardinal Antonio Martinez de Chavez, who died in the 15th century.
There is a museum at the temple, where you can see the sacred relics of the XI-XIX centuries.
The most valuable exhibits of the museum of archibasilica: crayfish with the relics of the 11th century, a casket with the cloak of St. John the Evangelist, a precious cross of the 13th century, the relics of the great martyr Catherine, the coat of arms of Clement VIII, made of silk and jewelry, numerous tapestries, depicting the coats of arms of the pontiffs of the past, church cups and cups made of silver and precious stones.
The museum was created in 1984 by Pope John Paul II. The door to the exhibition is located immediately behind the statue of Innocent III.
- Above the entrance to the cathedral is inscribed "mother of all churches in Rome and the world." Thus, the pontificate noted the highest importance of the temple.
- Every year on November 9, Catholics celebrate the consecration of the Lateran Basilica.
- Within the walls of San Giovanni in Laterano, six popes are laid to rest: Sergius IV, Alexander III, Innocent III, Martin V, Clement XII, Leo XIII.
- Near the cathedral is an ancient Egyptian obelisk made of red granite.. This unusual pillar was brought in the 4th century A.D. from the Egyptian temple of Pharaoh Thutmose III, located in Karnak.
Location and opening hours
The cathedral is located at: Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. Take the metro to San Giovanni Station or take bus number 116, 81, 85, 87, 810, 16.
- Lateran Basilica is open daily from 7:00 to 18:30.
- Sacristy - from 8:00 to 12:00 and from 16:00 to 18:00.
- The Baptistery is open from 7:00 to 12:30 and 16:00 to 19:00.
- Museum - from 10:00 to 17:30.
- Official site: www.vatican.va
- Virtual tour: www.vatican.va/various.