The Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano) is the most important of the four major papal basilicas in Rome and is seat of the bishop of Rome: the Pope. One of the most important Catholic churches in the world, the archbasilica is decorated with rich mosaics, Cosmatesque floors, and 12 baroque statues of the apostles.
The Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Sts. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran is the cathedral of Rome. More commonly known as the Basilica of St. John Lateran, it is named for its location at the Lateran Palace. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, donated the property to the church. It became the main papal residence and the venue for consecration of popes for centuries. Today, visitors can see the six papal tombs and larger-than-life-size statues of the Twelve Apostles.
St. John Lateran is best visited with a guide as part of a Christian Rome tour to be able to fully appreciate its historical and religious importance. Many small-group tours also include visits of the Vatican City’s Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear comfortable shoes, a hat, and sunscreen if joining a walking tour of Rome, as there is a lot of ground to cover.
- Catholic churches have a strict dress code that requires knees and shoulders to be covered.
- Photography without flash is permitted inside the church.
- The basilica is fully accessible to wheelchairs or strollers via ramps inside and outside.
How to Get There
The Basilica of St. John Lateran is located at the southern edge of the city center, about a 5-minute walk from the San Giovanni Metro Station on Line A.
When to Get There
Italy's capital city is one of the most visited destinations in Europe, and its holy sites, such as Saint John Lateran, are especially crowded during the Catholic holidays and Jubilee years. Try to schedule your tour outside of these popular times to visit.
The Holy Stairs
St. John Lateran is also the site of the Holy Stairs (Scala Sancta)—said to have been climbed by Jesus Christ to reach the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem and brought to Rome in the fourth century. Today, they lead to the Sancta Sanctorum, a chapel that contains some of the holiest relics in Christian history, though pilgrims today climb a nearby replica, as the original stairs are closed to visitors.