The Construction of the Lateran Basilica

the main body of the basilica

This article establishes a timeline based on the currently generally held belief of the construction of the Lateran Basilica. The building is located in Rome, Italy.

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Otherwise known as ‘The Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran’, ‘Papal Archbasilica of St. John Lateran’, and ‘Lateran Basilica’. It is given the name ‘archbasilica’ because it is the oldest and highest ranking of the four papal major basilicas. It is also considered the oldest public church in the city of Rome.

Its Latin name is ‘Archibasilica Sanctissimi Salvatoris ac Sancti Ioannis Baptistae et Ioannis Evangelistae ad Lateranum.’

The front wall has the inscription ‘Sacrosancta Lateranensis ecclesia omnium urbis et orbis ecclesiarum mater et caput’, which means ”Most Holy Lateran Church, mother and head of all the churches in the city and the world”.

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The alleged timeline is as follows;

324 – Pope Sylvester I oversees its initial construction

357 – Lateran Obelisk constructed by order of Pharaoh Thutmose III, erected by Thutmose IV in Thebes, Egypt

897 – it is almost totally destroyed by an earthquake

1100 – earliest date for the frescoing of the porticoes

c.1299 – Pope Boniface VIII institutes the office of Archpriest of the Archbasilica

1307 – It burns and is then rebuilt by Pope Clement V and Pope John XXII

1361 – It burns and is then rebuilt by Pope Urban V

1369 – the ciborium over the high altar is completed

c.1585 – Pope Sixtus V sets a program for reconstruction. Domenico Fontana oversees the project.

1588 – Lateran Obelisk discovered and excavated, re-erected on a new pedestal where it stands today

c.1600s – Francesco Borromini continues renovations of the interior, commissioned by Pope Innocent X

1702 – Pope Clement XI and Benedetto Cardinal Pamphili commission twelve sculptures of the Apostles to fill the niches

1704-1712 – the twelve sculptures are completed

1718 – Twelve niches filled with statues of Apostles, sculpted by Roman Rococo sculptors

1735 – Today’s facade is completed after a competition between 23 architects. Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737) won. It reads ‘Clemens XII Pont Max Anno V Christo Salvatori In Hon SS Ioan Bapt et Evang’, which means, ‘Pope Clement XII, in the fifth year of his reign, dedicated this building to Christ the Savior, in honor of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.” Galilei’s facade removed the traditional, ancient, basilical architecture and replaced it with a neoclassical style.

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We can see above, the building gets irreparably obliterated multiple times until the 16th-18th centuries, where it assumes its modern form. It appears to me to be safe to say that the 14th century reconstructions are basically the constructions on which the current building is built.

If you have information which you think you enhance or correct this article, please contact me. Thank you for reading.

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