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St. John's Basilica: Holy Stairs and Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum + audioguide

Piazza d'Ara Coeli, 16


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St. John's Basilica: Holy Stairs and Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum + audioguide

The Lateran Complex, consists of several high interest sites: the Basilica, the Treasure Museum, the Baptistery and the Holy Stairs, which contain the casket of the Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum.

The Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist, more commonly known as St. John Lateran, is the oldest church in the western world. Built according to the wishes of Emperor Constantine after his conversion and his victory over Maxentius, it was consecrated in 324 AD For this reason it is defined the mater et caput of all the churches of Rome and the world.

According to an ancient Christian tradition, the Empress Saint Helena had the stairs that Jesus climbed several times on the day of his death sentence transported from Pilate’s praetorium in Jerusalem to Rome in 326 AD.
For this reason it became known as Pilate’s Stairs or Scala Sancta. The earliest witness accounts of this eminent memory of the Passion are contained in a passage of the Liber Pontificalis from the time of Sergius II (844/847) and in a Papal Bull by Pascal II (1099/1119). The Holy Stairs owe their name to the 28 steps leading to the Chapel that the faithful climb on their knees to venerate the Passion of Jesus. The Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum  is the wonderful chapel before which pilgrims, after reaching the final step of the Holy Stairs, may pray through the iron grating protecting it. 

According to Medieval historians it was “the most venerated sanctuary in Rome”. It was the private chapel of the Popes until the Renaissance period, still here as a testimony of the splendour of the ancient Patriarchìo and a millennium of Roman Pontifical history. We do not as yet know who founded it. It was originally dedicated to Saint Lawrence and, starting in the 9th century, because of the many venerated relics of Saints it contained, it began to be called the Sancta Sanctorum.
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Meeting Point: TOURISTATION PIAZZA VENEZIA: Piazza D'Ara Coeli, 16
(Next to Piazza Venezia. Facing the Vittorio Emanuele Building, keep walking on the right hand side, cross the bus stop and the gardens. There is a small fountain in front of the office).


  • The building was restored in the 1700s and is stunningly decorated in various styles. There are massive mosaics depicting biblical scene, larger-than-life marble statues, a gothic altar and Renaissance artwork
  • The Holy Door is opened by the Pope every 25 years, so you’ll probably have to enter through the central bronze door which once stood in the Senate hall in the Roman Forum
  • The basilica is home to relics from various ages – from the Renaissance through to Ancient Rome and even all the way back to Egyptian pharaohs

What’s included:
  • Access to The Papal Chapel of the Sancta Sanctorum
  • Access to the Holy Stairs
  • Access to the Treasure Museum
  • Audio guide in multiple languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish, German)

    What’s not included: 
    • Guided tour
    • Food and drinks
    • Pick up

    • St. John Lateran Basilica: open every days from 7:00 am every 6:30 pm
    • Holy Stairs: it is open every days from 9:00 to 13:30 and reopens from 15:00 to 18:30. 
    • The Sancta Sanctorum: it is open from Monday to Saturday from 9:00 to 13:00 and it reopens from 15:00 to 17:15, except Sunday and religious holidays
    • Treasure Museum: is open from Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 18:00 (last entry at 17:30) on Saturday opens at 9:00 and closes at 14:00 (last entrance at 13:30). Closed on Sunday and religious festivities. 

    Duration: 2 hours


    • Temperature checks are mandatory
    • All customer touchpoints are frequently cleaned
    • To reduce crowds, the number of visitors is limited