The Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano is perhaps the most ancient of Christian churches. It is held to be the most important after Saint Peter’s because it is the Cathedral of Rome. In the central space between the transepts is an altar where only the Pope, the bishop of Rome, can celebrate mass.
As in all major basilicas, the entrance is preceded by a large portico; here is placed a statue of Constantine. The basilica has five doors: the one on the extreme right can only be opened during Holy Year, like that one in Saint Peter’s.
The facade of San Giovanni in Laterano is a masterpiece by Alessandro Galilei ( 1732 ) showing the strong influences of the Baroque and Neo-classicism. Fifteen colossal statues crown the facade, the most conspicuous being that of Christ. The evocative and beautiful interior has five naves built-in 1650 by Francesco Borromini. The transept is earlier and contains a beautiful tabernacle by Giovanni di Stefano.
The left side of the transept leads to the extraordinary Cloister, a true masterpiece of the 13th century by the Vassalletto family. Very close to the church is an antique Baptistery commissioned by Constantine at the same time as the basilica; it is octagonal and in the center is a green basalt urn, once a baptismal font.
Baths of Caracalla
The enormous, well-preserved Baths of Caracalla, today used for summer operatic performances, could accommodate someone thousand six hundred bathers and were built towards 212 AD by Emperor Caracalla. It has gymnasiums, baths, music rooms, and underground rooms.
Except for a few traces of the old mosaic pavement, all the decorations have disappeared. Two famous ancient works were excavated here: the Farnese Hercules and the Farnese Taurus.