Friday, November 9, 2012

The Lateran Basilica

The facade of St John Lateran, constructed by Alessandro Galilei

Today is the anniversary of the dedication of the Lateran church in Rome, the mother church, which was dedicated on November 9, 324 AD. King Constantine had built the original church on a plot of land owned by the Laterani family. It was pillaged and attacked and desecrated over the years, but it survived. However, an earthquake in the 9th century destroyed it completely. The Lateran Basilica along with the Palace adjacent to it have been rebuilt and rededicated twice. Pope Sergius III dedicated them to Saint John the Baptist in the 10th century, while Pope Lucius II dedicated them to Saint John the Evangelist in the 12th century. Two destructive fires in 1307 and 1361 ravaged the Palace and Basilica, but the Avignon Papacy sent money for their reconstruction and maintenance. However they never regained their former splendor, until Pope Clement XII launched a competition to design a new facade. 
The top part of the facade, with Jesus the Savior, flanked by John the Baptist and John the Evangelist
 Over 23 architects took part in the competition and the winner was Alessandro Galilei. The majestic facade as it appears today was completed in 1735. I was fortunate to visit the Basilica last May and took quite a few photos, 4 of which are accompanying this post.
St Matthew, one of the 12 massive marble statues

I was especially impressed with 12 massive statues of the 12 apostles situated inside the basilica, sculpted by the best sculptors in Rome in the early 18th century: Rusconi, Moratti, Rossi, Mazzuoli, Ottoni, Monnot and Le Gros. An elaborate baldacchino stands above the main altar, surrounded by various paintings and an intricate mosaic in the apse.

The baldacchino on the left, with the apostles' statues visible on the right

1 comment:

  1. May I use the picture of the outside fa├žade of St. John Lateran on a banner for Christian unity. Is it copywrited?