A Guide For The Pilgrim in Rome
Basilica of St John Lateran
The region that surrounds the Basilica of St John Lateran touches upon the very beginnings of the Christian faith. So many of the relics found here go back to the earliest disciples and even to Christ himself. Santa Croce in Gerusalemme and Scala Santa preserve many relics from Christ’s very own passion and death. The Basilica of St John Lateran has twelve striking statues of the apostles lining the nave. And finally the Basilica of San Clemente has relics of several first century saints who lived and evangelized just a generation after Christ walked the earth.
Begin your route at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme on the eastern end of this region. After visiting this church head west along Viale Carlo Felice. Please note that the large statue of St Francis of Assisi (d. 1226) that is described later is along this street. Continue until you reach the Basilica of St John Lateran and Scala Santa. After visiting these churches continue west along Via dei Santi Quattro to visit Santi Quattro Coronati and the Basilica of San Clemente. From here turn south onto Via Celimontana. Take this street until Via di San Paolo della Croce which will bring you to the quiet church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo.
The following churches are listed according to the order of the suggested route. The total distance is about 1.5 miles. To walk will probably take about 4 hours when one stops at each of the churches. The churches are generally open from 7AM-1PM and from 4PM-7PM. The Basilica of St John Lateran is open from 7AM - 7PM and does not close during the pranzo hour.
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
(Holy Cross in Jerusalem)
Piazza di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme 12
*This church is east of the Basilica of St John Lateran.
*Found here are relics of the True Cross brought to Rome by St Helena in 325.
*These relics include: the Titulus Crucis (This is the sign that hung over the head of Christ and that declared him to be the King of the Jews), a Crucifixion nail, a relic of the True Cross, two thorns from the Crown of Thorns, the greater part of the sponge used to give Christ vinegar, a piece of the cross from the good thief (St Dismas), and a bone from the index finger of St Thomas the Apostle.
*This chapel can be accessed by the staircase on the left side of the sanctuary.
Basilica of St John Lateran
Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano 4
*Positioned above the Papal Altar of this church are two busts of St Peter and St Paul. According to tradition the skulls or parts of the skulls of St Peter and St Paul are within these busts. Also located within the Papal Altar is a wooden table that St Peter and many of the earliest popes are said to have celebrated the Eucharist upon.
*Located to the left of the Papal Altar is another very ancient table. This table rests above the altar where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. It is placed directly behind a bronze relief of the Last Supper. Tradition claims that it was upon this table that Jesus and the apostles celebrated the Last Supper.
*Within a small park just outside of this basilica is a large statue of St Francis (d. 1226). He is depicted facing the façade of the basilica with his arms outstretched. If one stands behind this statue at a certain distance it looks as if St Francis is holding up the church. This recalls the dream of Pope Innocent III in 1209 when he saw the church being supported by St Francis.
Across from the Basilica of St John Lateran
*This building was originally the Papal Palace from the time of Constantine until the move to Avignon in 1313.
*It contains 28 marble steps that were originally located at Pilate’s house in Jerusalem. St Helena brought these steps to Rome. These are believed to be the same steps that Christ walked upon during his Passion.
*Within the chapel at the top of the steps is a very ancient image of the Lord called the Acheropita which means, “Not made by the hand of man.” One tradition credits St Luke with the painting of this image and an angel with providing the finishing touches.
Santi Quattro Coronati
(Four Holy Crowned Ones)
Piazza dei Santi Quattro Coronati 20
*This church is east of the Colosseum.
*For centuries the skull of St Sebastian was venerated within the crypt of this church. Signage at an altar on the left side of the nave continues to indicate its presence. However, at some point in the last century the skull was removed. It can now be found within a reliquary in the Treasury Museum of St Peter’s Basilica.
Basilica di San Clemente
(Basilica of St Clement)
Via di San Giovanni in Laterano
Piazza San Clemente
*This church is east of the Colosseum. Below the present 12th century basilica are three additional levels. The first two can be visited. These consist of an ancient Christian church and an even older pagan temple. A fourth stratum even further below preserves the remnants of some buildings that were destroyed by a fire during the reign of Emperor Nero (d. 68).
*A chapel on the right side of the nave is dedicated to Saints Cyril (d. 869) and Methodius (d. 885). The extant remains of St Cyril rest within the altar of this chapel.
*Also the remains of St Ignatius of Antioch (d. 107) and of St Clement I (d. 97) rest below the main altar.
*Tradition claims that St Cyril discovered some bones and an anchor while he was in Crimea. These were believed to be the relics of St Clement I. St Cyril then carried these relics to Rome where they were placed in the Basilica of San Clemente.
Santi Giovanni e Paolo
(Saints John and Paul)
Piazza dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo 13
*This church is south of the Colosseum.
*St Paul of the Cross (d. 1775) is buried under the altar in the large side chapel on the right side of the nave. Upon request one can visit the room in which he died in the monastery adjacent to the church.
*Located beneath this church is a complex of well preserved ancient Roman houses. Among these is an ancient house church. These ruins can be visited.