San Giovanni in Laterano

Opening hours Open daily 7:00-18:00. The baptistery closes for lunch.

San Giovanni is the official cathedral of Rome, originally founded by the Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century. It has been rebuilt several times and the present structure dates from 1589. The interior is from the mid-seventeenth century, when Pope Innocent X charged Borromini with the task of restoring it in preparation for the jubilee year of 1650: a commission which led to the impressive Baroque interior found today. The imposing facade dates from 1735, complete with its easily recognisable seven-metre high statues of Christ and the Apostles.

Things to See

San Giovanni in Laterano San Giovanni in Laterano (photo: Eleanor Murkett)

Main points of interest from within the cathedral itself include the fourteenth century Gothic baldacchino, commissioned by Urban V, which has some fine early Renaissance frescos. According to tradition the heads of St. Peter and St. Paul are buried under here. For a small fee, you can also visit the thirteenth-century cloisters. Just outside the church the octagonal baptistery which was ordered by Constantine and which contains some beautiful fifth-century mosaics is also well worth a visit.

Visiting San Giovanni in Laterano

It can be reached either by metro, linea A (stop: San Giovanni) by bus or by foot along Via San Giovanni in Laterano from the Colosseum. In the summer, the large piazza outside the cathedral often hosts free concerts, including the Cornetto Free Music festival and Primo Maggio.