Sunday, January 19, 2014

San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome

San Giovanni in Laterano is Saint John Lateran, or the church of Saint John on Lateran Hill. I remember one parish priest admitting that, since St. John Lateran has a feast day he would pray to John Lateran on that day. Later he realized it was not a person but a building!

San Giovanni in Laterano

The original church was built in the 4th century when Emperor Constantine took the land of a disgraced family and gave it to Pope Melchiades. The church includes the Lateran Palace, which was the official residence of the pope until 1309. The basilica is still the pope's official cathedral as bishop of Rome, so it is Pope Francis's home parish. The church definitely follows a "Jesus and His Apostles" theme, as can be seen with the roof statues.

Closer view of some of the roof statues--Jesus in the middle of course!

The front porch has some fantastic decoration, including a papal seal for a seemingly young and innocent pope. Also, one of the bronze doors is only opened for holy years (often those divisible by 25, though other special occasions sometimes arise).

Pope Innocent the Small?

More decorations

An outside statue

Holy year door

The interior of the church was redone in 1646 by Boromini with ornate Counter-Reformation exuberance. The nave is lined with statues of the apostles. Jacob was excited to see Jacob Major (James the Greater) was one of the statues!


Amazing ceiling (click to enlarge)

Apostle John

Jacob Major!

Peter, who is at the front, naturally

The main altar in the center of the church is the Papal Altar. Only the pope celebrates Mass here.

Main altar

Baby Jesus

Behind the main altar, in the apse, is the Pope's chair or cathedra, from which "cathedral" is derived. It is his chair as bishop of Rome.

Apse and papal cathedra

Mosaic detail

In addition to the Baby Jesus by the main altar, two side altars had Christmas nativities.

Side altar as you enter the cathedral

Simple nativity

More elaborate nativity further up

Many side chapels are dedicated to different popes, including this one for Leo XIII.

Leo XIII memorial

Side altar

Dome to the side altar

Side altar with fresco

Even the floor impressed me with its fancy designs.

Floor design

Holy Spirit on the floor!

As we left, we saw the typical line of merchants who were sheltering from the on-again, off-again January rain. Luckily, they were off to the side and easy to avoid.

The shopping gauntlet

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