From St. John Lateran to St. Peter in the Vatican, we bring you a very rich and interesting itinerary, to explore many important places of Christian Rome.
Located at the eastern extremity of the Servian Walls, San Giovanni in Laterano (St John Lateran) is the Cathedral of the Church of Rome and is therefore referred to as the “Mother of all churches in the world”. Not far off, along the Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, we reach the fourth century Basilica of St Clement, whose Late Baroque exterior conceals artistic treasures dating mainly back to the Medieval period. Of particular note is its ciborium and cosmatesque pavement, the choir enclosure (schola cantorum) and mosaic of the Roman school depicting “Il Trionfo della Croce” (The Triumph of the Cross), while Fifteenth Century Painter Masolino da Panicale’s genius explodes in all its glory in the Chapel of St. Catherine. A visit to the lower Basilica’s frescoes is especially absorbing, one of which (La Leggenda di Sisinnus – The Legend of Sisinnus) bears in its inscription initial traits of “volgare italiano” or vernacular rather than Latin .
Leaving the Colosseum behind us, on our way towards Piazza Esquilino we come across the fifteenth century five arched portico of the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains). In its right-hand transept, we unfailingly stand in admiration before Michelangelo’s Moses, a sculpture charged with measured vigour initially intended for the never-completed Mausoleum of Pope Julius II.
Continuing up the Via Cavour, we suddenly find ourselves in the stately presence of the best preserved of Rome’s five patriarchal basilicas, Santa Maria Maggiore (Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major). Despite the excellent eighteenth century restoration work on its exterior, it is really once we have entered the basilica itself that the full value of its artistic treasures, in particular its superb mosaics, become so clearly apparent. The attention of visitors is drawn to the 36 panels in the middle nave and the episodes of the Annunciation and the Childhood of Jesus dating from the time of Sixtus III. The mosaic in the apse is the thirteenth century work of Jacopo Turriti and depicts the crowning of Mary between Cardinal Giacomo Colonna and Pope Nicholas IV flanked by angels and saints. In addition to the sumptuous mosaic art, also to beckoning admiration are the frescoes (The Prophets), the Sistine Chapel adorned in antique marble and the magnificent Pauline Chapel with its frescoes by Guido Reni.
It is time to cross the Tiber for a visit to the fifth century Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, located in heart of one of the most fascinating districts of Rome. Of particular note are the works in the presbytery with its celebrated ciborium (canopy), the high medieval mosaic of the apsidal conch and the marble statue of Saint Cecilia, depicting the martyr’s body as seen when her tomb was opened in 1595. The basilica’s true artistic gem is Pietro Cavallini’s masterpiece, a mural painting of the Last Judgement, a fine example of pre-Giotto art.
By walking northwards alongside the Tiber (Lungotevere) we arrive at Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square), Bernini’s work of genius and antechamber to the most important architectural complex in the Catholic World. Millions of tourists and worshipers annually flock to this tiny state, attracted by both the superb works of art and its unparalleled deep symbolic significance.