The aura and architecture of St. John Lateran will both amaze and compel. It’s the oldest basilica in Christendom and dates to the 300s. It was lovingly and grandly restored in the 1700s and has the honor of being the Pope’s cathedral. This combination of religious significance and visual beauty makes it a favorite of visitors to Rome.
You’ll know you’re entering one of the world’s great basilicas by the exterior. Larger-than-life marble statues of Jesus and various saints stand imperiously on the roof of the imposing neo-Classical facade. The Holy Door on the far right is only opened once every 25 years by the Pope, while the massive bronze door in the center originally belonged to the Senate in the Roman Forum. But it's not just the doors that are impressive.
Step inside and you'll be struck by the scope, grandeur and beauty of the building. The nave welcomes you in beneath vaulted ceilings, as sunlight streams in through high windows. Flanked by a double aisle and impressive marble statues that accentuate the rectangular lines, the design seems to compel you towards the domed apse.
The décor is intricate, beautiful and varied. Be sure to look upwards – the gold-leaf coffered ceiling bears the coats of arms of Popes Pius IV and Pius V.
The building in its present form dates largely to the 1700s but there are relics and remnants from earlier ages: a beautiful gothic altar from the 1300s, two gilded bronze columns from the second century and - incredibly - the Sacred Steps. These are stairs that Jesus actually climbed during the Passion and were transported to Rome many centuries ago.
It’s a storied and striking place, one that has enormous appeal for both believer and non-believer.
The Sancta Santorum is closed daily between 13:30 & 15:00 and on Sundays.
Metro: Line A, get off at S. Giovanni station (5-minute walk from the station).
When entering the Basilica, you'll walk directly into the Lateran corridor. At the end of this corridor, on your left-hand side, you'll find the ORP desk (Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi). Show your smartphone ticket there.
Tickets for The Archbasilica of St. John Lateran