One of my previous posts was about St. Peter’s Basilica, which is considered as the world’s largest church. St. Peter’s is a papal basilica, along with St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. When we were in Rome, we got the chance to visit all four papal basilicas.
St. John Lateran (San Giovanni in Laterano)
We passed by St. John Lateran the most during our stay in Rome, because it was located near the place we were staying. Like the other churches we’ve visited, the facade of San Giovanni was beautiful. I also loved the statues of the apostles that lined the interior of the basilica.
The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the cathedral church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. It is the oldest church of the Western World, founded in the 4th century by Constantine the Great. The basilica is dedicated to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist (Italy Magazine).
Officially named Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris (Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior), it is the oldest and ranks above all other churches in the Catholic Church, even above St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, and holds the title of ecumenical mother church among Catholics (About Roma).Near the basilica, you can find the Scala Sancta, or Holy Stairs: white marble steps encased in wooden ones, which, according to Catholic tradition, once led to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial during the events known as the Passion. (Italy Magazine)
St. Paul Outside the Walls (San Paolo Fuori Le Mura)
Getting to St. Paul Outside the Walls needed more time and effort since it was quite far from the city center. However, when we arrived at the basilica, I realized that it was definitely worth it. Aside from the magnificent structure, it was much more peaceful compared to the other basilicas since there were fewer visitors.
San Paolo Fuori Le Mura is is located on the Via Ostiense, near the left bank of the Tiber river, 2 kilometers outside the Aurelian Walls. It is the second largest basilica of the four, after St. Peter’s Basilica (Italy Magazine)
St. Paul Outside the Walls was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine I over the burial place of St. Paul (now under the papal altar), making it a popular pilgrimage site (Italy Magazine).
St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore)
Among the four papal basilicas, St. Mary Major is probably the one that we explored the least. However, we were still glad that we got the opportunity to visit it given our tight schedule.
Santa Maria Maggiore is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary and one of the first to be built in her honor. It is the only basilica among these four to have preserved the Paleochristian structure of the 5th century, even though it underwent several makeovers and additions externally (Italy Magazine). The seventy-five meter bell tower – the tallest in Rome – was built in 1377, shortly after the popes returned from their exile in Avignon. The pyramidal spire was added much later, in the early sixteenth century (A View on Cities).
Again, thank you Sister Pierette for being our tour guide!
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