The Papal Basilicas in Rome

posted in: Italy, UNESCO | 0

Pop quiz: Am I in Rome or am I in London?

I ask because if you looked outside my window for the past (two) weeks, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Cloudy, depressing skies, constant downpour…basically, all I want to do is eat warm comfort food and curl up in bed with a book or a movie. Summer, where are you?

Today’s post I’m going to talk about Rome’s ancient major basilicas. There are four and at least one of them is very well known: St. Peter’s. But outside of Vatican City, there are three more impressive and important churches that are all property of the Vatican, but reside “within the Italian state and enjoy the immunities granted by International Law to the headquarters of diplomatic agents of foreign States”, according to the Lateran Treaty. They are the basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls. Last Sunday, we visited St. Paul and thus have now gone to all three so it’s a perfect time to write a little post about them.

Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano

St. John Lateran, or San Giovanni in Italian, is the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is of course, the Pope. It is the oldest of the four basilicas, consecrated in 324 A.D., and also the most important of the four basilicas (even though St. Peter’s is the most famous). It is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever been to and quickly became one of my favorites.

Here are some pictures:

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

It is said that Santa Maria Maggiore was built shortly after 431 and the Council of Ephesus. It has had additional construction projects and reparations due to earthquakes, but still retains the original structure. It is famous also for holding a reliquary with fragments of wood from the Holy Crib.

Looking out into the square from the steps of the church.


Basilica di San Paolo Fuori le Mura

Finally, last Sunday we made the little trek to see San Paolo Fuori le Mura, which was the last major basilica we were missing. It was consecrated in the 4th century, then in 1823 a fire destroyed almost the whole church. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1840 and reconsecrated in 1855. Another characteristic of this church is that every pope has his own portrait all around the walls of the church.

Basilica di San Pietro

For my post on St. Peter’s, click here.