(Duomo di San Giovanni in Laterano)
The formal Cathedral of the Roman diocise, situated to the south-east of the
The present building was built over the 10th - 12th centuries, on the site of an
earlier church supposedly founded by Constantine; though the interior and
façade were extensively re-modelled in the baroque style in the late
16th century. At all stages parts of earlier buildings wer incorporated, and the
main bronze doors were originally used in the 1st Century B.C. Curia Julia.
Amongst the relics housed there are the skulls of St. Peter and St. Paul.
Next to the church stands the Lateran Palace, the residence of every Pope from
Constantine until the papacy moved to Avignon in the early 14th Century.
The reason for the decline of the Lateran was chiefly one of convenience. The
original Lateran Palace burned down during the sojourn at Avignon, and had still
not been rebuilt when the Council of Constance returned the Papacy to Rome
following the Great Western Schism. Pope Martin V therefore moved into the
Vatican as a "temporary" measure, and his successors chose to concentrate
their efforts on building up St. Peter's Basilica rather than worry about
moving back to their "official" home. As a result, the new Lateran Palace was
not completed until 1586, by which time the Popes had become so entrenched at
the Vatican that they saw no reason to move back.
Nonetheless, the Lateran is still the official Papal Cathedral, and officialy
only the Pope or his representative can preach at the High Altar.