Archive | November 2015

The Pope’s Parish

For the upcoming feast day!!!

10 Fun Facts: The Pope’s Parish

St. Paul Outside the Walls, St. Mary Major, St. Peter’s and St. John Lateran make up the four major churches of Rome. Among them is hidden the Cathedral of Rome. Many may be surprised to learn that the cathedral of Rome is not St. Peter’s. In fact, the true cathedral of Rome is St. John Lateran whose feast day we celebrate this month. Why? How? What makes it special? So here are 10 facts about St. John Lateran:

  • John Lateran was a gift from Constantine to Pope Melchiades together with a parcel of imperial property and its buildings specifically for a church and papal residence. The property was known as “Lateran” because it had previously belonged to Plautius Lateranus. It was consecrated in 324 A.D.
  • The Cathedral served as the residence of the Pope until 1304. It was originally dedicated to the Savior in 324 and later St. John the Baptist (904-911) and later St. John the Evangelist (1144-1145).
  • Five Ecumenical Councils (1123, 1139, 1179, 1215, 1512) were hosted here.
  • It is home to the Holy Door which is only opened during a Jubilee year. It was last opened in 2000.
  • It is the home of the Tomb of Pope St. Leo XIII and houses relics of Sts. Cyprian, St. Giustina, Rufina, Secuda and Venatius.
  • The Baptistry, found in the northwest corner of the church, is the original to the Lateran. Built by Constantine this Baptistery features a step down circular area for baptism by immersion. In the center is a basalt where baptisms are now performed. Around the baptistery area are eight oil paintings depicting scenes from the life of John the Baptist.
  • The Egyptian obelisk found in the plaza in front of the Lateran is the oldest in Rome and dates back to 1500 B.C. It was originally placed in the Circus and moved here in 1588.
  • The Lateran is home to the Papal Altar where only the Pope can celebrate Mass upon. The altar itself is said to contain portions of a wooden altar which was used by Peter, the first pope, and subsequent popes up to Sylvester I.
  • Above the Papal Altar is a silver grate. Behind this are two silver busts said to contain the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul.
  • The Altar of the Holy Sacrament is crowned with a bronze relief of the Last Supper. Behind this is fragment of wood thought to be a piece from the table used at the Last Supper.

St. John Lateran is at the heart of the Church in Rome. Its walls have seen many wars, been sacked, damaged, rebuilt, etc. Yet the Lateran stands as a measuring tape for the growth of the Church in Rome. From the relics of the earliest papal altar to a portion of the Last Supper the Lateran houses two of the most amazing and pivotal moments of the Church which served as a springboard for the papacy and the Eucharist. In a way which no other church can claim, St. John Lateran has seen the artistic contributions from many different centuries thus connecting generations of Christians beneath one roof. The physical beauty of this church is astounding in all the symbolism, paintings and sculptures. Yet, the most beautiful contribution comes through the spiritual graces which exudes from every sacrament celebrated within its boundaries.