The Lateran Complex

The Lateran Complex, consists of several high interest sites: the Basilica, the Cloister and the Treasure Museum, the Baptistery and the Holy Stairs, which contain the casket of the Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum.

The Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist, more commonly known as St. John Lateran, is the oldest church in the western world.

Built according to the wishes of Emperor Constantine after his conversion and his victory over Maxentius, it was consecrated in 324 AD For this reason it is defined the mater et caput of all the churches of Rome and the world.

This Basilica is the Cathedral of the diocese of Rome and the seat of the Supreme Pontiff as Bishop of Rome.

The Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano

Price

from € 5,00

Description

The first Jubilee in history was announced here in 1300, while for the Jubilee of 1423 Pope Martin established for the first time in this church the opening of the Holy Door, a ceremony later extended to the other Basilicas.

Offered Tours

  • Tour with multilingual audio-guide of the Lateran Complex: Basilica, Cloister, Baptistery, Holy Stairs and Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum € 10.00
  • Tour with multilingual audio-guide of the Cloister € 5.00
  • Tour with multilingual audio-guide of the Holy Stairs and Papal Chapel of the Sancta Santorum € 5.00
  • Guided tour of the Basilica and entry to the Cloister € 15.00

All tours include entrance to the Treasure Museum

Information and reception

Our Meeting Point is located near the atrium of St. John’s Basilica, next to the Holy Stairs.

Opening hours: from Monday to Saturday 9:00 am- 5:00 pm/ Sunday and public holidays: 9:00 am- 1:00 pm

How to reach us

  • Metro: line A to San Giovanni (5 minutes on foot from the station)
  • Open Bus Vatican&Rome: Stop n°10 San Giovanni in Laterano

Opening hours Lateran Complex

  • St. John Lateran Basilica: 07:00 am- 6:30 pm
  • Cloister: 09:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Lateran Baptistery: 09:00 – 7:00 pm
  • Holy Stairs and Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum: from Monday to Saturday 9.30 am to 1:30 pm (last entrance at 12.45 pm) and from 3.00 pm to 5.10 pm (last entrance at 4.45 pm). Closed on Sundays and public holidays
  • Treasure Museum: from Monday to Friday 9:00 am- 5:00 pm/ Saturday 9:00 am- 1:00 pm/ Closed on Sundays and public holidays

Audio-guide languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, German

Guided tour languages: Italian, English, French 

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Meeting Point Basilica of St. John Lateran
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Open Bus Vatican&Rome Stop n°10 San Giovanni in Laterano
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Metro A Station San Giovanni
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Holy Stairs and Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum

The Value of the Experience

This complex is a unique testimony of the history of Christianity and visiting it will be a striking experience for believers and non-believers alike. At the centre of it, the Basilica dedicated to the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist. The oldest church in the history of Christianity, built by the will of Emperor Constantine after his conversion and his victory over Maxentius, it was consecrated in 324 AD. For this reason it is defined the mater et caput of all the churches of Rome and of the world.

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This is where the Baptistery was built, for a long time the only place where the faithful could be baptised.

At the heart of it, the Patriarchio, the seat of the Pontiffs until the early 14th century. After exile in Avignon, France, the residence of the Popes was moved to the Vatican.

The mother of Constantine brought here from Jerusalem the Stairs of the Praetorium, climbed by Jesus during his trial. One of its Chapels contains the Sancta Sanctorum, where the most sacred relics of Christianity were protected.

With the transformations of the following centuries, in particular those of the mid-17th century, the Basilica took on its current form and, because of its beauty, has been defined "Aurea", golden.

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Visiting the location

The Lateran complex consists of several high interest sites: the Basilica, the Cloister and the Treasure Museum, the Baptistery and the Holy Stairs, which contain the casket of the Chapel Papal of the Sancta Sanctorum.

According to the time you can spend there and your interests, it’s possible to visit all the sites subsequently or only some of them.

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Our special ticket allows you to easily access the complex and visit all the points of interest in around 2 hours with a multilingual audio-guide system.

We suggest you begin by visiting the Basilica with the Cloister and the Treasure Museum and to then proceed outside the church to the Baptistery located in the square behind.

You can then complete your tour by visiting the building of the Holy Stairs, located on the right of the Basilica, and admiring the Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum.

If you only have one hour, we suggest visiting the Basilica and its Cloister first, followed by the Holy Stairs and Sancta Sanctorum.

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Points of interest

The Lateran Baptistery

The Lateran Baptistery is the oldest monumental Baptistery built at the behest of Emperor Constantine as a place for the Christian community to solemnly celebrate the Sacraments of initiation. It was rebuilt during the following century and has remained unchanged since then, except for minor embellishments and restorations which have left the structure intact.

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The Baptistery therefore still presents itself as a 5th century building with the particularity of always having been used, to the present day, for the function for which it was built: baptism. Since it was built, not a single year has gone by without baptisms being celebrated there. In addition, great numbers of pilgrims travel to it to renew their baptismal promises and here Christians from all over the world feel united by a single Baptism and a single Faith. Anglican Christians also arrive here to celebrate the memory of Baptism and there are many visits from Orthodox Christians too. Today you are part of this great communion of faith and love and you are invited to visit this site not only as an artistic experience, but also as an opportunity for prayer. The interior of the Baptistery offers visitors a testimony of faith in Christian antiquity, the discreet traces of the Middle Ages and the artistic passage of the Renaissance period; the inside of the Chapel of Saint Venantius, in which we celebrate parochial Holy Mass, also features a large 7th century mosaic dedicated to the Saints of Dalmatia and a tender image painted on stone: the Madonna of the source offering to the eyes of visitors her baby Jesus. Best fraternal wishes to you all, dear friends, from the parish community.

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The Holy Stairs

When in Rome, no pilgrim fails to visit the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs, one of the best-known and eminent in the Catholic world. It is located by the Basilica of St. John Lateran and contains the precious Chapel of the Popes, otherwise known as the Sancta Sanctorum, where the image of the Most Holy Saviour is worshipped.

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According to an ancient Christian tradition, the Empress Saint Helena had the stairs that Jesus climbed several times on the day of his death sentence transported from Pilate’s praetorium in Jerusalem to Rome in 326 AD. For this reason it became known as Pilate’s Stairs or Scala Sancta. The earliest witness accounts of this eminent memory of the Passion are contained in a passage of the Liber Pontificalis from the time of Sergius II (844/847) and in a Papal Bull by Pascal II (1099/1119). The Holy Stairs owe their name to the 28 steps leading to the Chapel that the faithful climb on their knees to venerate the Passion of Jesus.

It is certain that it was once located in the Patriarchium, or the complex of the Lateran Buildings, the ancient seat of the Popes, and that in 1589 Pope Sixtus V had it moved to the Papal Chapel, where it remained to form the single building we can still admire today. Pius IX (1846/1878) had it restored and promoted the cult of the great relic by building the adjacent convent, which he entrusted to the religious members of the Passionist congregation in 1853.

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The Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum

This is the wonderful chapel before which pilgrims, after reaching the final step of the Holy Stairs, may pray through the iron grating protecting it. According to Medieval historians it was “the most venerated sanctuary in Rome”.

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It was the private chapel of the Popes until the Renaissance period, still here as a testimony of the splendour of the ancient Patriarchìo and a millennium of Roman Pontifical history. We do not as yet know who founded it. It was originally dedicated to Saint Lawrence and, starting in the 9th century, because of the many venerated relics of Saints it contained, it began to be called the Sancta Sanctorum. One of the first times it is mentioned is in the Liber Pontificalis, under Stephen III (†772), and witness accounts abound starting in the year one thousand, particularly with regard to the liturgy of the Holy Week and of the Popes taking possession of the Lateran. Gregory IV (†844) had a private apartment built near the chapel to go and pray with more ease and to carry out the officiation of the clerics of the Curia. The Popes seem to have competed in having it embellished and restored. Particularly successful were Leo III (†816), Innocent III (†1216), Honorius III (†1227) and especially Nicholas III (†1280), to whom we owe the current arrangement of the Chapel, with the frescoes, attributed to the Roman School of the 13th century, the completion of the mosaic above the altar and the cosmatesque floor. Callixtus III (†1458) was responsible for the strong reinforcing wall at the back of the edifice. Blessedly, the Chapel did not suffer extreme damage during the Sack of Rome of 1527 and works carried out by Sixtus V, on a project by architect Domenico Fontana, who built five ramps of stairs with that of the Holy Stairs at the centre, left the Sancta Sanctorum unaltered.

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