Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

I Cor 3.9-11,16-17; Ps 45; John 2.13-22

Many people, asked to identify “the pope’s church,” would respond “St Peter’s Basilica” in the Vatican. In fact, though, the Cathedral Church of the Bishop of Rome is the Archbasilica of Christ the Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist, to give it its full title. It is the oldest of the four papal major basilicas (along with St Peter’s, St Mary Major and
St Paul outside the walls); it was dedicated on this day by Pope Sylvester in 324, its site on the Celian Hill in the city of Rome (some two and a half miles away from Vatican City) the gift of the Emperor Constantine to Pope Miltiades in 313. St Helena, Constantine’s mother, arranged for the staircase (
Scala Sacra) of Pontius Pilate’s Praetorium in Jerusalem to be installed in the basilica. The combined patronage of two New Testament “Johns,” one the forerunner of Our Lord, the other his beloved disciple, is rather unusual. Pope Sergius III (reg 904-11) added the dedication to St John Baptist and Pope Lucius II (reg 1144-45) added St John the Evangelist.

It is quite likely that St Augustine dedicated the Church he built in 597 in Canterbury to Christ the Saviour as a deliberate echo of the original dedication of the Lateran Basilica, sometimes called “the Mother and Head of all Churches of the City and the World.”

Posted in Daily Reflection.