The Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral church of Rome, is the highest ranking Roman Catholic Church and the official seat of the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. Although the Pope spends most of his time at the Vatican, the basilica contains the papal throne and the Pope comes every year to preside over the Holy Thursday Mass.
Originally a palace belonging to the Lateran family, the structure was given to the Bishop of Rome by Constantine I and served as the Pope’s principal residence until the 14th century. A primitive basilica was consecrated in the 4th century by Pope Silvestro I. The church underwent many reconstructions and it was not until the 1700s that the modern-day facade was completed by Alessandro Galilei. The bronze doors are those of the ancient Curia (senate house) that were brought over from the Roman Forum by Alexander VII.
The striking interior of San Giovanni in Laterano is filled with colossal statues of the apostles and prophets, leading to a large apse that is decorated with a magnificent mosaic. The Holy Stairs, or Scala Santa, are located just across the street. These stairs are believed to be the same that Jesus used on the day of his death and were brought to Rome in 326 AD by Saint Helena.
The seat of the Bishop of Rome, San Giovanni in Laterano is the principal papal church in Rome and holds an important place in the Roman Catholic religion. This truly striking basilica is definitely a must-see church in Rome.