The Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the oldest in the world

There is no church in the world older than the imposing Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome.

Its origins date back to the 4th century when Emperor Constantine ceded the Lateran Palace to the Pope. He made it his official residence and it was the seat of the Catholic Church for more than 1,000 years. Pope Sixtus V demolished the vast majority of the buildings that made up the complex in the 16th century, although at least he saved the basilica, which was remodeled in the 17th century.

There is a Tour of the basilicas of Rome, which we recommend you take because in a very short time you will be able to see them all at the hands of an expert guide.

The Exterior of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran

Rome - Saint John Lateran - FacadeSan Giovanni in Laterano, as the basilica is known in Italian, is impressive both inside and out, and a visit can take quite some time.

Outside we can find different points of interest, somewhat scattered because some are remains of the old framework of buildings destroyed by Sixtus V.

In front of the entrance we find an Obelisk. It measures 31 meters and is the tallest in the city, as well as the oldest.

Before being transferred here it was in the Circo Massimo, like other obelisks in the city, and it has the peculiarity that from it you can see the Colosseum in the distance on one side and the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore on the other.

Rome - Saint John Lateran - ObeliskOutside, the Baptistery, with an octagonal floor plan and which can be visited for free, or the Scala Santa, should also be highlighted.

It is a small building where the 28 most famous steps in Christianity are located and according to tradition you have to climb them on your knees and that take you to the private Chapel of the Popes, better known as Sancta Santorum.

As you may have noticed, we have not yet talked about the Basilica of Saint John Lateran itself.

Rome - Saint John Lateran - Side doorOnce we have visited its surroundings, we will describe its façade, or rather its façades because there are 2 that must be seen.

The main one is crowned with a statue of Christ surrounded by various saints. On this facade we find some bronze doors, which are the originals of the Curia located in the Roman Forum and through which the Pope enters every Holy Thursday.

The other façade is on one side and is less solemn. It is located next to the obelisk and is the most used to access its interior.

What to see inside San Giovanni in Laterano

Rome - Saint John Lateran - InteriorOnce we have admired the exterior of San Juan de Letrán, as well as its facades, we can access its interior to continue being amazed.

In this interior we can find a rich decoration that begins on the ceiling, continues along the walls and even ends on the floor. The majesty dominates its entire interior, restored by Borromini.

Among all the jewels inside, we can highlight the Tomb of Martin V with its bronze slab and especially the 12 statues in the central nave that represent the 12 apostles.

Among his paintings we must highlight Giotto’s Fresco depicting Pope Boniface VIII proclaiming the first jubilee in history.

Do not miss either the baldachin, where there is a reliquary with the heads of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and the Cátedra, the episcopal throne of the Bishop of Rome. The Corsini Chapel is another essential point of interest.

You can find more information on the official website of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran.

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