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St John Lateran

(592 words)

Author(s): Alison Fleming
San Giovanni Laterano, one of the seven principal basilicas of Rome, was the first church built by the Roman Emperor Constantine, shortly after his victory at the Milvian Bridge (perhaps as an ex-voto), in the early fourth century. The medieval forgery known as the "Donation of Constantine" alleged that Constantine gifted the Lateran to Pope Sylvester, setting the stage for the papacy’s claims to temporal power. The church is distinguished by the fact that it is the place where Christianity was …

Scala Sancta

(870 words)

Author(s): Alison Fleming
The term "Scala Sancta" refers specifically to the Holy Stairs located in the Lateran Palace, or Patriarchium Lateranese, as well as more generally to the entire building, which includes the private chapel known as the Sancta Sanctorum. This palace is adjacent to the Church of St John Lateran, and was built on the land given to the Papacy by Constantine. It was home to the Popes until their move to Avignon in the early fourteenth century. The Lateran Palace was substantially renovated by Sixtus …

St Peter's

(873 words)

Author(s): Alison Fleming
The Basilica of St. Peter at the Vatican was erected in the early fourth century (c. 320) to commemorate the burial site of St Peter, founder of the Christian community in Rome and the first pope. The feast day of Sts Peter and Paul is celebrated at the Vatican on June 29. The twelfth-century guidebook Mirabilia Urbis Romae says that Constantine "dug the foundation" of the church, although biographers of the newly-christianized Emperor do not specifically mention this act, nor any particular devotion that Constantine had to this site. The fifth-century Liber Pontificalis contains the f…

Sta Maria Maggiore

(642 words)

Author(s): Alison Fleming
Santa Maria Maggiore on the Esquiline Hill is one of the seven major basilicas of Rome, and its premier shrine of Marian devotion. It is a location particularly associated with feast days of the Virgin, such as the Annunciation, Assumption, her Nativity, and Christmas. The foundation myth says that the Virgin herself selected the site at the "Miracle of the Snow" on August 5, 352. This event is depicted in detail in the mosaics by Filippo Rusuti (1292-97) on the original façade (now within the l…