The Roman Catholic Church observes today (Nov. 9) the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the oldest and first in rank of the four major basilicas of the Catholic faith in Rome, Italy, that include the Basilicas of St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Mary Major.
Regarded as the “Mother Church” of Christendom and the “Parish Church of all Catholics,” the Basilica of St. John is the main church of the Holy Father Pope Francis as the bishop of Rome. It is also the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.
Also known as the Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in the Lateran, it is also called as the Papal Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran, Saint John Lateran, or the Lateran Basilica.
The basilica holds the unique title of “archbasilica.” It is the oldest public church in the city of Rome, and the oldest basilica of the Western world.
On its façade are written, “Omnium Urbis et Orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput,” which is Latin for the title “The Mother and the Head of all Churches of the City and of the World.”
Originally known as the Basilica of the Most Holy Savior, the first church structure was built during the 4th century on land donated by Emperor Constantine which he received from the wealthy Lateran family. Pope Innocent X commissioned the present structure in 1646.
As one of Rome’s most imposing churches, the basilica’s towering façade was crowned with 15 colossal statues of its main patron, Jesus Christ, and His co-patrons, Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, and the twelve Doctors of the Universal Church.
Thousands of pilgrims and tourists visit the Basilica of St. John Lateran every year.