The Retirees Go Abroad – the Mother Church

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We awoke to another bright and hot day. The weather had been unusually warm but each morning had started with a chill in the air with the day becoming warm by 10.00 am and hot by 2.00 pm. As we were planning a day out doors we packed our water bottle and our hats grabbed our Omnia tickets (yellow for the sight-seeing bus and red for the monuments and public transport). The back pack Kerry had bought in Bakewell (a village in Derbyshire) served us well holding all our needs including provisions from the breakfast table to provide snacks throughout the day. Biscuit and honey!
As usual we caught the bus to Anangina car-parking and bus/metro station. It is hard to describe this place and to take photos as everyone rushes past makes you feel like such an obvious tourist and dick. So I can only offer two snaps one showing the bus stops and buses of one section and part of the everyday market (clothing mainly) at Anangina.
After the ride on the Metro to San Giovanni we walked around to the Mother Church. This is St John’s Lateran. The first home to the Pope of Roma. Before the Vatican and before Avignon and the Holy See, the Pope lived and preached here. Emperor Constantine established the first Christian church on this site hence the Romans consider this the Mother Church the seat of the popes as bishops of Rome from which all other Christian churches have developed. As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, it ranks above all other churches in the Catholic Church, including St. Peter’s Basilica. For that reason, unlike all other Roman Basilicas, it holds the title of Arch basilica.
“The arch basilica stands over the remains of the Castra Nova equitum singularium, the ‘new fort’ of the imperial cavalry bodyguard. The fort was established by Septimius Severus in AD 193. Following the victory of Constantine I over Maxentius (for whom the Equites singulares augusti had fought) at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. …………The Lateran Palace fell into the hands of the emperor when Constantine I married his second wife Fausta, sister of Maxentius. Known by that time as the “Domus Faustae”, the Lateran Palace was eventually given to the Bishop of Rome by Constantine. The actual date of the gift is unknown but scholars believe it had to have been during the pontificate of Pope Miltiades, in time to host a synod of bishops in 313AD.
The arch basilica is located outside of the boundaries of Vatican City proper, although within the city of Rome. However, it enjoys extraterritorial status as one of the properties of the Holy See. This is also the case with several other buildings, following the resolution of the Roman Question with the signing of the Lateran Treaty.” (Source Wikipedia)
The front doors are the original doors to the roman “Domus Faustae” and they are huge. In the portico or patio to the church is a statue of Constantine which comes from the original Domus Faustae. Inside the church is opulent without being garish like St Peter’s. The graceful baldacchino over the high altar, which looks out of place in its present surroundings, dates from 1369 and contains the statues of St. Peter and Saint Paul, now in the cloisters from the original palace. Throughout the church are many confessionals each marked with the language spoken by the priest taking the confession. In one I was able to capture the priest and an unknown person having an aside outside the confessional. I like to think the priest has stopped to give his bets to his bookie.
The throne in the Church can only be sat upon by the Pope.
On the square in front of the Lateran Palace is the largest standing obelisk in the world, known as the Lateran Obelisk (weight estimated at 455 tons). It was commissioned by pharaoh Thutmose III and erected by Thutmose IV before the great Karnak temple of Thebes, Egypt. Intended by Constantine I to be shipped to Constantinople, the very preoccupied Constantius II had it shipped instead to Rome, where it was re-erected in the Circus Maximus in 357. At some time it broke and was buried under the Circus. In the 16th century it was located and dug up, and Sixtus V had it re-erected on a new pedestal on August 3, 1588 on its present site.
Whilst viewing the church we spoke to an arch deacon of the church who encouraged us to visit two lesser known churches one dedicated to St Lazlo and the other St Alphonsus. As it turned out the latter was just up the road (about 30 minutes walk). The Church of Alphonsus on the Esquiline contains an icon (strange indeed – icons are a creature of the eastern orthodox church and prevalent in Russia). The icon was stolen from a church in Crete in the 15th century and brought to Rome where it has been known as “The Virgin of Perpetual Help”.
Just up the road, Via Merulana, is The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. It is the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome. There are 25 other churches in Rome dedicated to Mary, but the greater size of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major justifies the adjective by which it is distinguished from the other 25. According to the 1929 Lateran Treaty, the basilica located in Italian territory is owned by the Holy See and enjoys extraterritorial status similar to that of foreign embassies.
Our goal had been to visit the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. Our short visit to the Lateran Palace had taken up the whole morning. Such is the depth of history in this town.


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