Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, Rome

Basilica of St John LateranBasilica of St John Lateran
The Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, at the end of Via Merulana, is bounded by the Lateran Palace, the side entrance to the church of St John Lateran and the baptistery of San Giovanni in Fonte. It is dominated by an Egyptian obelisk, the tallest (31m/102ft high, or 47m/154ft including the base) and also the oldest in Rome. It was brought from Thebes to Rome in a specially constructed ship in A.D. 357 and set up in the Circus Maximus. In 1587, during the reign of Sixtus V, it was transferred to its present site, and the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius which stood here was moved to the Capitol.

Basilica of St John Lateran

The Basilica of St John Lateran was for many centuries the Papal residence and Episcopal church of the Pope.
HIGHLIGHTS

San Clemente

San Clemente is one of the most venerable and beautiful of Rome's churches.
On a site previously occupied by a house containing a shrine of Mithras - now far below street level - an early Christian church was built at some time before A.D. 385 and dedicated to St Clement, third bishop of Rome after Peter. After the destruction of this church by the Normans in 1084 a new basilican church was built over its ruins at the beginning of the 12th century.
Address: Via San Giovanni in Laterano, I-00186 Rome, Italy

Upper Church

The upper church reflects the old basilican structure with its sequence of entrance porch, atrium with a fountain, the nave where the congregation worshipped and the area reserved for the clergy (the schola cantorum), with the high altar and the apse. Notable features of the interior are the ancient columns and the intarsia work by the Cosmati family in the marble pavement, the screens, the Easter candlestick, the tabernacle and the bishop's throne. The triumphal arch and apse are decorated with mosaics of Old and New Testament scenes, the most richly decorated in Rome, with the Tree of Life and the Cross, saints and symbolic devices, animals and plants combined in intricate patterns.
In the little St Catherine's Chapel at the west end of the north aisle are early Renaissance frescoes by Masolino (before 1431) depicting scenes from the life of St Catherine of Alexandria, of particular importance as showing the earliest use of perspective painting in Rome.

Lower Church

The lower church, a three-aisled pillared basilica of the fourth century, has frescoes dating from different centuries in the Romanesque period. Notable among them are a Ascension in the central aisle, in which the donor, Pope Leo IV, is shown with a square nimbus, indicating that he was still alive, episodes from the Passion, and scenes from the life of St Clement.
A passage leads underground to the excavated foundations of a second century Roman dwelling with the shrine of Mithras in a barrel-vaulted chamber. The altar, in the middle of the shrine, has a relief depicting Mithras (the Persian sun-god) killing a bull.

San Giovanni in Fonte

The baptistery of St John was built by Constantine on the site of a Roman nymphaeum in the Lateran Palace. This octagonal building, the oldest baptistery in Christendom, provided a model for later baptisteries. The doors of the chapel of St John the Baptist emit a ringing sound when they are opened or closed.
Address: Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, I-00186 Rome, Italy

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme is one of the seven pilgrimage churches of Rome, the others being San Giovanni in Laterano, San Pietro in Vaticano, San Paolo fuori le Mura, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Sebastiano and San Lorenzo fuori le Mura. Pilgrims like to attend services at these churches on the eve of important Catholic festivals. The church was built in the reign of Constantine for the purpose - so the legend goes - of housing the relics of Christ's Passion which Constantine's mother Helen had brought from the Holy Land. It received its present Baroque form in the 18th century (architect, Domenico Gregorini).
Address: Piazza Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, I-00186 Rome, Italy

History Museum of Infantry

The History Museum of Infantry contains the testimonies of the liberation wars as well as World War I and II. The museum is also home to a small chapel with a group by sculptor Edmundo Furlan. The piece portrays Christ on the Cross and Two Infantrymen.

History Museum of The Grenadiers of Sardinia

The History Museum of The Grenadiers of Sardinia contains documents, weapons and paintings, arranged in different historical sections, dating from 1659 to 1945.

Four Holy Crowned Ones

The first church on this site was built in the fourth century in honor of four martyrs. According to one legend they were Roman soldiers who refused to do honor to a statue of Aesculapius; another version states that they were sculptors of Pannonia who refused to carve a pagan idol. By virtue of the second of these legends the church is popular with stonemasons. The martyrs are said to have been killed by having an iron crown driven on to their heads; hence they are "crowned" martyrs. The present church was erected in the reign of Pope Paschal II (c. 1100) after the destruction of an earlier church by the Normans in 1084. The principal features of the church are the nave and apse, with the tall campanile; the Cappella di San Silvestro, with scenes from the life of Constantine, selected for their relevance to the conflict between the Pope and the Emperor in the Middle Ages; frescoes depicting the discovery of the Cross by Empress Helen; the crypt and the famous early 13th century, cloister.
Address: Piazza dei Santi Quattro Coronati 20, I-00184 Rome, Italy

St Stephen's Rotunda at the Coelian

Santo Stefano Rotondo was, architecturally, one of the great churches of Rome, but its state of dilapidation destroys the full effect of this imposing structure, with its ground plan of a Greek cross set within a circle. The church dates from the fifth and seventh centuries (Popes Simplicius and Adrian I). Of the two original ambulatories, only the inner one is preserved. The 34 pillars, which used to divide them, can be seen today in the outer wall. On the ambulatory wall is a cycle of badly preserved frescoes depicting the cruel martyrdom of the Saints. In addition to St Stephen the Protomartyr (feast December 26th) St Stephen of Hungary is honored here. The church of Santo Stefano Rotondo has undergone archeological explorations and the mosaic floor was restored in 2006.
Address: Via di Santo Stefano Rotondo 7, I-00186 Rome, Italy

Holy Staircase

Diagonally across the main front of San Giovanni in Laterano is the church of the Scala Santa, on the position of the dining-room (triclinium) of the Lateran Palace. It contains the Papal chapel of the palace (Cappella Sanctum Sanctorum, with 13th century mosaics) and the Holy Staircase, a flight of 28 marble steps (now clad with wood) which is believed to be a staircase from Pilate's palace in Jerusalem, brought to Rome in the fourth century by St Helen. It is the practice for the faithful to climb the staircase on their knees in memory of Christ's Passion.

Lateran Palace

The Lateran Palace was the residence of the Pope from the time of Constantine until 1309, when Clement V was compelled to transfer the seat of the Papacy to Avignon. After the Pope's return from exile in France the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican became the Papal residence. The original palace dating from the time of Constantine was destroyed on a number of occasions, and in 1558 it was completely rebuilt by Sixtus V. The palace is now occupied by the Roman diocesan administration.
In 1993 it was severely damaged in a bomb attack by the "Falange Armata".
Address: Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, I-00186 Rome, Italy

Porta Maggiore

The Porta Maggiore, now surrounded by the swirl of modern traffic, was one of the most imposing structures in ancient Rome. It was built by the Emperor Claudius in A.D. 52 at the point where two important roads, the Via Praenestina (the road to Praeneste, present-day Palestrina) and the Via Casaline (the road to Labici), left the city, passing under two aqueducts, the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus (the River Aniene). They were later incorporated in the Aurelian Walls. Adjoining the gate is the tomb of a Roman master baker, Virgilius Eurysaces and his wife.

Museum of Musical Instruments

To the north of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme the Museum of Musical Instruments (Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali) houses a collection of some 3,000 instruments dating from ancient times to 1800, including the famous 17th century Barberini Harp.
Address: Piazza di Santa Croce in Gersalemme 9/a, I-00186 Rome, Italy

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