We were planning on spending time in Rome at the end of our trip, as usual, but since we needed to catch the train for our next destination at Rome’s Termini Station, we decided to spend one night there in the middle of the trip, and while we were there, catch the last performance of Dirty Dancing: The Musical. We checked into a B&B close to the train station, and then set out to explore a bit.
To my dismay, the Santa Scala, or Holy Stairs, were undergoing renovations (now finished), and while the building was partially open to the public, we chose not to go inside. Instead, we headed across the street to the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano.
San Giovanni in Laterano is the oldest public church in the city of Rome, and the oldest basilica in the entire Western World. Being the seat of the Holy Father in Rome, it ranks even higher than Saint Peter’s Basilica. The Basilica and the Palazzo adjoining it, the Lateran Palace, are the property of the Vatican, so once inside, you are no longer in Italy, but are now guests of the Vatican State. The Palazzo was the home of the Popes until 1309. It is possible to tour the palazzo, but only with a guided tour, and there are only a few tours each day, so it is best to book in advance. The church, however, is open to the public free of charge. Be prepared to have to go through security control, before entering the church. This is the case now when entering any of the important churches in Italy, and it is, in my opinion, a sad reflection on the state of the world that we live in.
The basilica was badly damaged by two different fires, in 1307 and 1361. Pope Sixtus V repaired the building, improving it architecturally and artistically.
Because it is a major basilica, proper attire is required when entering the building. No knees or shoulders should be exposed. Shawls are available if you need them, but I find it is best, and it saves time and trouble, if one simply dresses accordingly. Once through security, one finds oneself in the porch of the basilica.
Inside of the church, along the center aisle, in the niches, there are statues of the Apostles, which date from 1718.
The basilica is the final resting place for six popes: Pope Alexander III, Pope Sergius IV, Pope Clement XII, Pope Martin V, Pope Innocent III, and Pope Leo XIII.
The reliquary at the top of the Baldacchino, over the High Altar, is said to contain the heads of Saints Peter and Paul. Mass can only be celebrated at the High Altar, by the Pope. The altar itself contains a relic of Saint Peter’s communion table.
It is possible to visit the beautiful cloisters, for a small fee, and I highly recommend doing this!
Being fans of the movie “Dirty Dancing,” we were thrilled to find out that a theatrical production was running in Rome, and it just so happened that we were able to catch the very last performance. It was a fun way to end a great day, in my favorite city in the whole world!
Next up: We head to Firenze (Florence), the birthplace of the Renaissance!
Note: This blog is written in English and Spanish, and the author takes no responsibility for the quality of any other translations which may appear. If you have enjoyed this post, please, check out our archives for more posts from Rome, as well as other Italian destinations. Grazie!