San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome

As every tourist knows, San Giovanni in Laterano is one of the major basilicas of Rome, a beautiful place full of ancient history. Preceded by an imposing square, in which stands an ancient obelisk, the basilica rises in its austere magnificence. Next in the article, you will find the necessary information for a tourist visit.

San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome: the piazza

The Piazza di San Giovanni is surrounded by a remarkable group of buildings. In front are the Baptistery and Basilica of the Lateran. On the left, beyond the modern palace, are seen the buildings which enclose the Santa Scala, and some broken arches of the Aqua Marcia. In the center of the piazza is the Obelisk of the Lateran, 150 feet high, the oldest object in Rome, being referred by translators of hieroglyphics to the year 1740 B.C., when it was raised in memory of the Pharaoh Thothmes IV.


It was brought from the temple of the Sun at Heliopolis to Alexandria by Constantine, and removed thence by his son Constantius to Rome, where it was used, together with the obelisk now in the Piazza del Popolo, to ornament the Circus Maximus. Hence it was moved to its present site in 1588, by Fontana, for Sixtus V. The obelisk was then broken into three pieces, and in order to piece them together some part had to be cut off, but it is still the tallest in the city. One of the inscriptions on the base is false, as it narrates that Constantine received at the Lateran the baptism which he did not receive till he was dying at Nicomedia.

San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome: origin of the name

The Lateran derives its name from a rich patrician family, whose estates were confiscated by Nero when their head, Plautius Lateranus, was put to death for taking part in the conspiracy of Piso. Remains of this villa were discovered near the apse of the church in 1876.

San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome: history

It became an imperial residence, and a portion of it being given by Maximianus to his daughter Fausta, second wife of Constantine, became, under the name of “Domus Fauslae,” her usual residence. It was this which was given by Constantine to Pope Melchiades in 312, a donation which was confirmed to Saint Sylvester, in whose reign the first basilica was built here and consecrated on November 9, 324, Constantine having labored with his own hands at the work.

San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome:the first earthquake and the first burning

This basilica was overthrown by an earthquake in 896, but was rebuilt by Sergius III. (904-11), being then dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. This second basilica, whose glories are alluded to by Dante “Quando Laterano Alle cose mortali ando di sopra” in the Paradiso, xxxi was of the greatest interest, but was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1308.

San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome:the second reconstruction and the second earthquake

It was rebuilt, only to be again burned down in 1360, when it remained for four years in utter ruin, in which state it was seen and mourned over by Petrarch. The fourth restoration of the basilica was due to Urban V. (1362-70), but it has since undergone a series of mutilations and modernizations which have deplorably injured it. The west front still retains the inscription ” sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia, Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput”.

San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome: hours

Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, 4

Every day 7am-6.30pm

San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome: mass times

Week days 07:00am-08:00am-09:00am-10:00am-11:00am-12:00am-05:00pm-06:00pm

Holidays 07:00am-08:00am-09:00am-10:00am-11:00am-12:00am-05:00pm-06:00pm

In July and August:

Week days 07:00am-08:00am-09:00am-11:00am-06:00pm

Holidays 07:00am-08:00am-09:00am-10:00am-11:00am-12:00am-05:00pm-06:00pm

San Giovanni in Laterano in Rome: attractions

The Basilica and its attached Complex – the Cosmatesque Cloister – the Museum of Sacred Arts – the Baptismal Font and the Scala Santa – underground level

Tours are in Italian and in English. A tour in another language can be booked contacting “Mater et Caput” Association that organize the visit. Tour prices vary depending upon the typology of the visit. The guided tours are organized by the “Mater et Caput” Association. For bookings please leave a message at the following telephone/fax number: 0039 06 69886392. Alternatively, you can e-mail the following address:

Audio guide It’s a service that provides guided tours in 5 different languages (Italian, English, German, Spanish, French). Cost: € 5,00 Students and over 65: € 4,00 The service is suspended during mass or holy celebrations. Price includes entrance in Chiostro.

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