Inscribed on the entryway to the portico of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome are the words: Mother and head of all the churches in the city and the world.
This inscription may seem wrong at first. Isn’t St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican the pope’s main church?
No, not exactly.
The pope serves as the Bishop of Rome and as the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. John Lateran is the pope’s church.
First dedicated on this day, November 9th, in the year 324, the original basilica was built on land donated to Constantine by the wealthy Lateran family. That structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake, and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the church where popes were consecrated.
In the 14th century, when the papacy returned to Rome from Avignon, the Basilica of St. John Lateran was found in ruins.
Knowing the profound history that occurred there, Pope Innocent X commissioned the present structure in 1646, rebuilding St. John Lateran to its former glory. One of Rome’s most awe-inspiring churches, the Lateran’s towering facade is crowned with 15 colossal statues of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and 12 Doctors of the Church.
Beneath its high altar rests the remains of the small wooden table on which tradition holds St. Peter himself celebrated Mass.
As Catholics, Rome is the center of our earthly home, the Catholic Church, and we should all foster a feeling of devotion and attachment to the city’s rich and beautiful Catholic heritage! Our Major Basilica Coasters are a unique way to bring the beauty of Rome’s Catholicism into your very own home. Featuring each of the four major basilicas in Rome in a unique ink and watercolor design, these coasters are a thoughtful gift for any lover of Catholic history and art! Get yours today at The Catholic Company!