Home / Art and History / Itineraries in Rome - The Great Patriarchal Basilicas

Itineraries in Rome - The Great Patriarchal Basilicas

Itineraries in Rome - The Great Patriarchal Basilicas (the pride of Christian culture)

The Pilgrim had to walk the 5 km that separated the Vatican from the Archbasilica of St. John is called the Cathedral of Rome and the Mother Church of Christianity . It was the Emperor Constantine, who had just converted to Christianity, who ceded the ownership of the Lateran Palaces to the Bishop of Rome in order to place the Cathedral there in 313, the year of the famous Edict of Milan where the Emperor promulgated freedom of religion for all citizens. Thus was erected the Basilica, which, within the architectural complex of the Lateran, was the official residence of the Popes for about a thousand years. The huge Piazza di San Giovanni , one of the largest and most beautiful squares in Rome, is now a venue for concerts, political and cultural events. In the centre the oldest Egyptian obelisk in Rome guides the Christian along his religious pilgrimage from one Basilica to another.

Much of the history of the Church was written in this basilica: several crusades were proclaimed, the first Holy Year and the Lateran Pacts signed. Under the building, the remains of the barracks of Emperor Constantine's horse guard are still visible. Over the centuries the Cathedral underwent great transformations and destruction, until in 1650 it was rebuilt by Borromini. The work was completed in 1740 with the erection, by the Florentine Alessandro Galilei, of the splendid façade where the Baroque and Neoclassical styles merge. Not to be missed are the Baptistery, from the age of Constantine, with its typical octagonal shape that has become a model for all the baptisteries in the Christian world, and the Cloisters dating back to 1220 with 125 small arches and typical twisted columns.

On the eastern side of the square is the Holy Staircase. According to mediaeval tradition, the 28 steps of the Staircase are precisely those of Pilate's Praetorium in Jerusalem that Jesus climbed and descended during His trial and on which He left traces of His blood. No foot may tread on this relic and the faithful may only climb the Holy Staircase on their knees.

The Holy Staircase leads to the Chapel of San Lorenzo or Sancta Sanctorum, so called because it houses some of the most sacred relics of Christianity. We stop to admire the Acherotipa image of Christ, of non-human origin, which in the Middle Ages was carried in procession to ward off the Plague.

We move on to the Esquiline Hill to admire the imposing Patriarchal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore: the Basilica where different architectural styles blend most harmoniously. It was founded in 352 by Pope Liberius, on the very spot where the Virgin Mary had indicated to him in a dream that he would find snow. The coffered ceiling, the delightful Romanesque bell tower, the famous mosaics of the Coronation of the Virgin, the Sistine and Pauline Chapels are works of art not to be missed, as well as, the religious relic consisting of fragments of Sycamore that, according to legend, belonged to the manger that had been Jesus' cradle.

Discover Rome

Share Article