San Giovanni in Laterano (St. John Lateran) is the basilica dedicated to the Bishop of Rome, better known as the Pope. It is where the Pope delivers his Holy Week address on Holy Thursday.
This massive church not far from the Colosseum is one of four ancient papal basilicas along with St. Peter’s, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and Saint Mary Major.
Saint John Lateran is perhaps best known for the giant statues on its façade.
Inside the basilica are tombs of six popes and larger-than-life statues of the 12 apostles. Among its treasures are the papal throne and the table used during the Last Supper.
The adjacent Lateran Palace was the home of the Pope until the early 14th century when the seat of the Holy See was moved to Avignon, France.
The Scala Sancta or Holy Stairs on which Christ walked during his Passion are housed in a building across from the basilica, part of the larger Lateran complex of buildings.
The square in front of Saint John Lateran is known as Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and boasts Rome’s largest Egyptian obelisk.
The square is also similar to the one in front of St. Peter’s in that it is often used to host large events, including the annual Primo Maggio concert on the first of May. St. John’s Day on 24 June is marked at Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano with a feast of snails and suckling pig.
Papal Basilicas of Rome Map
Photos © Melanie Renzulli
This post first published on 19 March 2008
Updated on 8 May 2021