St Paul outside the Walls – St John in the Lateran – St Mary Major
During the IV century the Empire became Christian. The first historical churches of Rome date to that time, built by Emperor Constantine and his mother Helen….
All the Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome, because of their antiquity and importance for the whole Christian community, are depending directly from the Pope. They are extra-territorial properties of the Vatican. On this tour we will visit the most important ones, following the steps of the pilgrims.
The Cathedral of St. John in Lateran, first church built in Rome in 316 by emperor Constantine and seat of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, was originally dedicated to the Savior and only later to St. John the Evangelist and St. John the Baptist. Renovated several times along the centuries it’s a real museum, covering every art period from the Middle Ages on. The so-called Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) is preserved in a sanctuary facing the church.
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St. Paul Basilica was erected by the same emperor on the tomb of the Apostle, which is visible under the main altar. Partly rebuilt after a fire, it keeps the simple but imposing layout of the first paleo-Christian churches. The Inside of the basilica is decorated with the mosaic portraits of all the popes.
About a century later, after the Council of Ephesus in 432, Pope Sixtus III erected a church dedicated to the Virgin. It’s the smallest but the most beautiful of the three. Because of its size and beauty and its important Christian tradition it’s know as St. Mary Major. Its columns come from a roman temple, its mosaics date to the earliest periods, its ceiling is decorated with solid gold.