Rome: The Basilica of St. John Lateran
About the the Basilica of Saint John Lateran:
Also known as “Mother and head of all Churches on Earth”, this Basilica is the seat of the bishop of Rome, who of course, is also the Pope. The photo above shows Pope Francis celebrating one of his first Masses there. It is also one of the seven pilgrimage churches in Rome.
For 11 centuries it was also the Popes’ residence, until they moved to Avignon, France. After they moved back to Rome, they lived in Vatican City. Five ecumenical councils were held in the cathedral between the 12th and the 16th centuries.
The Basilica houses magnificent artwork, and the remains of several saints: namely Saints Cyprian, Secunda, Giustina and Rufina. Pope Innocent III, the pontiff who approved the rule of St. Francis, and the rule of St. Dominic, is also entombed here. After dreaming of St. Francis holding up the collapsing St. John Lateran, Innocent III realized that God would use this man to “rebuild His Church”, and gave St. Francis his approval for the Order the next day.
You can also see the tomb of Pope Leo XIII, who had the vision of Lucifer challenging Our Lord, claiming that he could destroy God’s Church in 100 years. As a result of this vision, Leo XIII composed the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which was recited after every mass for many decades, and still is today in many parishes.
This Basilica also contains wood from the table used at the Last Supper. It is high above the altar above the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, to the left of the main Papal altar.
This is one of the few Churches which has its own Feast Day: November 9 is the celebration of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica. The Basilica was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324.
Finding the Basilica of Saint John Lateran:
Address: Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, 4, Roma, Italy
GPS coordinates: 41° 53′ 9.1716” N, 12° 30′ 20.4228” E
Tel: +39 06 6988 6433
Click here for a virtual tour of Saint John Lateran (from the Vatican official website)
And directly across the street from the Basilica is the Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs. This is an important stop for many pilgrims and is easily combined with your visit to Saint John Lateran.
For help finding your way around, we suggest the “Little Black Book of Rome” It is organized by location rather than alphabetically like so many guide books. And we also suggest you carry a “Streetwise Map of Rome” for easy navigating.