I was fortunate to be one of 30 juniors from Holy Family High School traveling with our theology teacher, Dave Good, on his annual pilgrimage to Italy last June. His second cousin, Father Kevin Fazio, along with other members of his family, was also able to join us.
Over 10 days, our group toured Assisi, Siena, Florence, and finally Rome. We were able to have mass in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica and attend Pope Francis’s weekly audience—and on June 19, the Feast of Corpus Christi, we made sure to visit St. John Lateran Basilica, the oldest basilica of the Church.
The building itself is similar to that of St. Peter’s Basilica. The Apostles are fanned out on the roof above the giant pillars guarding the entrance. Upon entering through the bronze doors, one’s eye is immediately drawn to the center altar and its massive canopy. Reportedly, the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul are held inside the canopy. Large statues of the Apostles and other saints flank one’s approach to the altar, and the golden ceiling seems to illuminate the whole nave. Finally, the ornate apse mosaic of Christ surrounded by angels and saints compliments the entirety of this beautiful basilica.
St. John’s was a fitting last stop on our grand pilgrimage to Italy. After seeing so many other chapels, churches, basilicas and cathedrals, St. John Lateran seemed to give an impressive summary as the Mother Church of Rome. On the day of our visit, Pope Francis celebrated evening mass to begin the procession of Corpus Christi to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, the newest of the four major basilicas.
The procession from the old to the new symbolizes the path of the Church throughout history. Much like how the Church remains true through ever-changing times, the Basilica of St. John Lateran stands tall against the test of time.
Thomas Olson is a senior at Holy Family High School in Broomfield. He enjoys traveling abroad and visiting famous Catholic sites including Lourdes, France.
About St. John Lateran Basilica
On Nov. 9, in the year 324 A.D., Pope Sylvester dedicated St. John Lateran Basilica to Our Savior, four years after its completion. Originally owned by the wealthy Laterani family, this grand building was later dedicated to St. John the Baptist in the 10th century as well as St. John the Evangelist in the 12th century, and served as the papal residence from the time of Emperor Constantine until the end of the Avignon Papacy. Today, St. John’s is the oldest basilica of the Church and the official Cathedral for the Bishop of Rome. On Nov. 9 the Church will celebrate the 1,690th anniversary of this marvelous basilica.