The Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran is the seat of the pope - the bishop of Rome. It is the highest-ranked cathedral in all of Catholicism. It even outranks the larger and more famous St. Peter's Basilica. Seeing both St. Peter's and Saint John Lateran Basilicas should be an essential part of any three-day itinerary of Rome.

There is more to the Vatican City than the Vatican City proper, this is the seat of the Pople and it is outside of the Vatican. It is one of the properties of the Catholic church, that enjoys extraterritorial status from Italy - so Italy does not have jurisdiction here. While visiting the Vatican, the best time is with a private early morning tour.

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About The Archbasilica Of Saint John Lateran

It has the title of the ecumenical mother church of the Roman Catholic faith. The cathedral can be called "Lateran Basilica" for short, but its full name is "Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran."

  • Location: Rome - About 4 Kilometers or 2.5 Miles out of Vatican City.
  • First Founded: In 324 AD

The church dates from the days of the Roman Empire having originally been founded in 324 AD and is the oldest of the four papal major basilicas. The Archbasilica is situated on where the fort of the Roman Imperial cavalry bodyguard once stood. After the victory of the Roman Emperor Constantine at Milvian Bridge in 312, he dissolved the guard and demolished the fort because they fought against him. He then built an early Christian Basilica over the fort.

It was extensively repaired and rebuilt in the late 1500s, while the interior was renovated in the late 17th century, and the facade was completed in 1735. Today the interior of the basilica is certainly a marvel. Visiting it should not be overlooked while visiting Rome.

  • Oldest: It is The Oldest Public Church In Rome
  • Highest: It Is the Highest Ranked Catholic Cathedral

Related: The Largest Cathedral In North America Is In New York City, And It's Only Two-Thirds Completed

Papal Tombs And Inscriptions

There are six extant papal tombs in the archbasilica. These are:

  • Alexander III
  • Pope Sergius IV
  • Pope Clement XII
  • Pope Martin V
  • Pope Innocent III
  • Pope Leo XIII

In recent centuries popes have been buried in Saint Peter's Basilica and Pope Leo XIII was the last pope to not be entombed in Saint Peter's. While there are only 6 papal tombs to be found there today, there were another 12 or so papal tombs in the basilica. These were destroyed by two fires that gutted the basilica in 1308 and 1361.

  • Number of Papal Tombs: 6 Remaining Today
  • Total Papal Tombs: Over 18 Popes Have Likely Been Entombed Here

On the building is the large Latin inscription:

"Clemens XII Pont Max Anno V Christo Salvatori In Hon SS Ioan Bapt et Evang."

It is an abbreviation for what translates into English as

"Pope Clement XII, in the fifth year [of his Pontificate, dedicated this building] to Christ the Savior, in honor of Saints John the Baptist and [John] the Evangelist"

The basilica was likely first dedicated to Christ the Savior and only centuries later was it co-dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and Saint John the Evangelist.

Private Tour Of Saint. John Lateran Basilica

Skip the Line: St.John Lateran Basilica, Baptistery, and Holy Stairs - Private Tour from Rome: For those who would like a private tour of St. John Lateran, this tour offers a private guide that will explain the West's oldest and Catholicism's highest-ranking church. On this tour, one can explore the papacy's first residency and be amazed by the sheer beauty of the interior. On this tour one will also get to see the sacred Holy Stairs and the Chapel of Sancta Sanctorum as well as see the Baptistery dedicated to St. John.

  • Duration: 3 Hours
  • Cost: 290 Euros ($335)
  • Includes: Guide
  • Excludes: Pick Up, Headsets, Entrance fee to the Cloister 5€

Related: Tourists Who Visit The Vatican Won't See These 12 Hidden Rooms

Self Guided Tour and Non-Private Tours

If that is too expensive to have a private tour then consider a self-guided tour or non-private tour of the church. One can have a self-guided tour with a multilingual audio guide of the Basilica, Cloister, Baptistery, Holy Stairs, and Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum. Alternatively, have a guided (but non-private) tour of the Basilica and entry to the Cloister for € 15.00.

Self Guided Tour: € 10.00 ($11.50) - Lateran Complex

Guided Tour: € 15.00 ($17) - Basilica and Entry to The Cloister

  • Opening Hours Lateran Complex: St. John Lateran Basilica: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Daily | Cloister: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Daily | Lateran Baptistery: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily | Holy Stairs and Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m; 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday - 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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