Audio File length: 2.21
English Language: English

Welcome to the "Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World", as the grandiose basilica of St. John Lateran is often called. This marvel of art and architecture is more than 1700 years old: it was erected by Emperor Constantine immediately after the famous edict of the year 313 where he granted freedom of worship to all religions, beginning with Christianity.

For over a thousand years, before the Papal headquarters was moved to the Vatican, St. John Lateran was the heart of Christianity. The Basilica, Baptistery, Papal Palace, and Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum form a complex of extraordinary historical and artistic significance.

Keep in mind, however, that over time the Basilica has undergone many architectural interventions, which have led it to almost completely lose its original appearance, except for its majestic interior.

Your tour begins with the large square: as you'll have noticed, this is not the church's façade but is its rear, with the loggia on the balcony that the popes would use to bless the faithful from above. The immense red-granite Egyptian obelisk you  see at the center of the square is about 3500 years old, and its 47 meters make it the tallest of the city's many obelisks: it was brought here from Thebes thanks to Emperor Constantius II, who had it placed in Circus Maximus.

At the sides of the square you can admire the building with the Holy Stairs that I'll discuss in the next file, and the precious, ancient, octagonal Baptistery, which is the prototype and model of all the other early-Christian Baptisteries.


FUN FACT: did you know that the 13th century doors of the Baptistery of St. John were nicknamed the "singing doors"? In fact, when they are opened they emit a sound similar to an organ! The explanation behind the noise was rather easy to gather: each door weighs nearly 800 pounds, and is made of both bronze and silver, perhaps as well as gold. The strong friction of the doors turning against the hinges makes them "sing"!

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