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Why visit the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and the Holy Stairs in Rome?

The trip to Christian Rome cannot fail to contemplate the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (Basilica of St John in Lateran). I am sure that the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, the first papal residence, and the Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs), will impress you with its magical atmosphere.

Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome? (Source Pixabay)
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Why visit the Basilica of Saint John Lateran and the Holy Stairs in Rome?

The trip to Christian Rome cannot fail to contemplate the Basilica of St John in Lateran. Considered one of Borromini’s masterpieces, this magnificent Cathedral, founded by Pope Melquiades, is located on the Celio hill and is undoubtedly an imperative for tourists and pilgrims from all over the world. But, after all, why visit the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome and the Holy Stairs? I am sure that the Basilica of St John in Lateran, the first papal residence, and the Holy Stairs, will impress you with its magical atmosphere. Here at Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams!!! ALSO: see our “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”

Introduction

The Basilica of St John Lateran, together with Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore (“St Mary Major”), St Peter’s Basilica and Saint Paul Outside the Walls, is one of the four major basilicas in the city. Called the ‘mother of all the churches in the world’, the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran is the intermediary between pagan and Christian times. In fact, this construction was born for public meetings and to administer justice, but with the spread of Christianity it became an imposing place of worship. Also read What to visit near Rome? The best round trips from Rome.

It was the first great Christian Basilica built in the 4th century AD by Emperor Constantine, which aimed at creating a strong base for imperial power through religion. The new Basilica was used to claim that the Emperor’s victory had taken place in the name of Christ, as legend has it. Also read 5 unmissable churches in Rome? and Shall we visit religious Rome?

Earthquake and Fire

Its structure would have been the model for many other Christian Basilicas. The Basilica went through an earthquake and a fire, which destroyed many of the decorations that the popes had entrusted, for centuries, to important artists such as Pisanello, Arnolfo di Cambio and Giotto. In 1650, Pope Innocent X commissioned Borromini to restore the church, as we see it today. Inside there is a lot to see: the Cesi Chapel, the statue of the Queen of Peace, the Sforza Chapel. There is also the venerable “Nativity Scene”, by Arnolfo di Cambio. Next to the altar is the tomb of one of the greatest Italian artists of all time, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The simplicity of his headstone is impressive, compared to the masterpieces the artist has produced in his career.

Works of Art and Monuments

The Basilica of St John, over the centuries, has been enriched by numerous works of art and monuments including the famous fresco by Giotto, which represents Pope Boniface VIII in the act of the first Jubilee, the arch-shaped coffered ceiling, designed by Pirro Ligorio and the floor, like Cosmatesco. The Basilica, also called Bethlehem of the Occident, has an important prestigious museum. The Museum was inaugurated and blessed by Pope John Paul II, on December 8, 2001, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The Museum is open daily from 9 am to 6:30 pm.

Lateran cloister

In addition to the Basilica, a must-see is the Lateran Cloister, which features one of the cosmatesque architectural works that is a treasure of elegance and simplicity, and with its 36 meters on each side it is by far the largest cloister in Rome. The cloister is decorated with tombstones and materials from Roman and early Christian excavation.

Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs and to Sancta Sanctorum

Once outside the basilica, go to the Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs and Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies), a place of pilgrimage for Catholics from around the world. Every year, millions of people pass through it in prayer, on their knees, to pay for sins and call on graces. It is on the Holy Stairs, with its twenty-eight steps, as pronounced, where Jesus would have climbed, already beaten and bloodied, to access Pilate’s praetorian palace.

Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs

There is no pilgrim in Rome who misses visiting the Pontifical Shrine of the Holy Stairs, which is among the best known and most illustrious in the Catholic world. It is located in the Basilica of Saint John in Lateran, and it preserves the precious chapel of the popes, called Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies), where the image of the Holy Savior is worshiped. Today, this staircase consists of twenty-eight steps that can be raised on your knees.

  • Of course, those who do not want to go up on their knees can use the side stairs, which also allow access to the Chapel of the Holy of Holies, undoubtedly one of the most important sanctuaries of the Catholic Church in Rome, as well as the first private chapel of the Pope.

Sancta Sanctorum

A place of extraordinary worship where you can see, inside, the precious Chapel of the Popes, called Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies), witness of the Patriarchate and a millennium of history of the Roman Pontificate. In addition to all this, you can also see the frescoes of the 13th century, a mosaic above the altar and the sumptuous cosmatesque floor, and in the year of the Jubilee, it is an unmissable trip.

In order to facilitate the flow of faithful on the Holy Stairs, the architect built another four stairs, on the side, on the ‘Sancta Sanctorum’ and new chapels, such as those of Saint Lawrence and Saint Sylvester. On May 24th, 1590, Pope Sixtus V, through an official document, announced the closure of services and the subsequent opening of the Holy Stairs. Even today, these 28 steps are a place of deep devotion and penance, reminiscent of the period of the Passion of Christ and which the faithful go through, once a year, in order to obtain forgiveness of their sins.

Useful information

The following is some useful information to get to know the Basilica and the Holy Stairs.

Opening Hours

The Holy Stairs is open from 6:00 am to 1:00 pm and from 3:00 pm to 7:10 pm. To pray and go on your knees to the Holy Stairs, reservations are not required and admission is free. The Papal Sancta Sanctorum Chapel is open from 9:30 am to 12:40 pm and from 3:00 pm to 5:10 pm (except on Sundays and holidays), the visit takes about 20 minutes. For those who want to visit the Sancta Sanctorum Chapel, it is necessary to buy a ticket, which costs € 3.50 per person. Take a tour of Christian Rome and the catacombs, click here to find out more!

How to get to the Basilica?

The Basilica of St John Lateran is located south of the city. It is about a five-minute walk from San Giovanni Metro Station, on line A, just three stops, south of Termini Station and there are many bus services serving the Basilica of St John. Noteworthy is the number 3 (electric bus), which connects the Basilica of St John with the Colosseum, and the bus 218, which goes from Via Apia to the Basilica. The other bus solutions, depending on the departure area, pass very close to Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano and are the lines: 186, 218, 665, 850, 16, 81, 85, 571, 650, 117, 650, 714, 85 and 87. Read also How to get around Rome with Public Transport?

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Hotel I suggest near the Historic Center

If you are passionate about art and would like to stay in the center where you can move around walking, as well as having countless possibilities for places to have lunch / dinner or a snack, I advise you to stay in the historic center. Regions near the Trevi Fountain, the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Imperial Forum and the Villa Borghese, Piazza Spagna and Piazza Navona can be considered as “historic center”. These are the most expensive areas, but you will be close to everything, literally!

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Hotels that I suggest near the San Giovanni Region

For those who want to find cheaper alternatives in quiet areas, but at the same time close to the means of transport to the center, I suggest the region of San Giovanni or Monti (near the metro stations San Giovanni, Castro Pretorio and Circus Massimo) – which it is a more residential neighborhood; therefore, more economical and quiet! And with just 15 minutes by subway you will be in the center too!

I have two options for Hotels that I recommend, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)

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Hotels I suggest near Vatican City

An interesting area to stay and a little cheaper than the historic center is the Vatican area (Vatican Museums) which is very well connected with everything.

I have two options of B&B that I recommend, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)

If you prefer a hotel, I have three options that I recommend, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)

Hotel I suggest near Termini Station

For those who prefer to stay in neighborhoods that have good access to the rest of the city and at a better price, then you should choose accommodation in the surroundings of Termini Station (from where a dense network of public means of transport starts, serving both: the local people and tourists).

I have 3 good hotel suggestions in Termini, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)

If you prefer B&B I have 2 good suggestions, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)

Hotels that I suggest in Trastevere

For those who prefer to “taste” authentic and characteristic Rome, there is nothing better than booking a hotel in Trastevere (on the outskirts of the city’s historic river), full of typical Roman history and traditions, known for the tortuous streets of sampietrini stones and the centers medieval style housing.

The neighborhood is in the historic center and to the right of the Tevere River, in the midst of a spectacular landscape, where each visitor can observe the countless churches and squares (such as Santa Maria in Trastevere). In addition, this neighborhood offers several local restaurants and canteens for those who want to try typical Roman cuisine.

If you want to save a great option is the B&B, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)

If you prefer a good hotel, I have two options that I really like, click on the links below and get to know each one. If you like the suggestion make your reservation and guarantee good prices;)


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Conclusion

Why visit the Basilica of St John Lateran in Rome and the Holy Stairs? I believe that there are no other words to conclude this text than to visit, soon, these beauties that only Rome can offer. And if you feel insecure, have no time, and need help to organize your trip, don’t hesitate to contact me! I will love to help you make your dream trip to Italy come true. And how can I do that? Keep reading this post until the end and you will understand how we make your life and your trip much easier. 🙂

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