Lateran Complex (Palace - Obelisk - Baptistery)

Lateran Buildings, Facade (© 2006,Jastrow)

The Saint John Lateran Basilica stands on the same place of the ancient Patriarchio and it was the pontiffs’ official residence from the first half of the 5th century until the moment in which Pope Clement V decided to transfer the official seat to Avignon, in France.
It had been destroyed by a fire in 1308 and it has been rebuilt by the architect Domenico Fontana in a period which lasted from 1586 to 1589. The reconstruction happened mainstreaming in the work for the edification of the Lateran architectural ensemble, commissioned by Pope Sixtus V.
The obelisk is very important in the Lateran ensemble, and it’s one of the most ancient ones in Rome. It comes from the oriental area of the temple of Amon-Ra in Karnak, in Egypt, and it’s made of pink granite. Thanks to archeological researches, we can see its original base and the dating.
The Lateran Baptistery is also known as St. John in Fonte or St. John in Onda and it’s made out of ancient materials. Archaeological excavations have revealed some architectonical forms very close to the original ones, such as the plan of the previous building. Thanks to the excavations also a baptismal font prior to Constantine’s Age was discovered. According to a Roman legend dating back to the 5th century, Emperor Constantine was baptized in the Baptistery; we can have a proof of this fact by reading the inscription on the base of the obelisk in St. John Lateran Square. It seems that Constantine was actually baptized at the moment of his death in Nicomedia (currently known as Ismid), while his mother St. Helen was baptized in the Baptistery. She enriched the monument with the spoils of war that Titus and Vespasianus had subtracted from Jerusalem’s temple.

Complesso LateranenseLateran Baptistery (Photo shooting by Roma Capitale Press Office)


complesso lateranense storico

Louis Rouhier (inc.), Orthographia Patriarchii Lateranensis, in: Cesare Rasponi, De Basilica et patriarchio lateranensi libri quattuor..., Roma 1656

View of the Lateran Buildings before the intervention of Sisto V in the area

For further information visit the ANTIQUORUM HABET exhibition site