Most tourists are unaware of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, located over the Celio Hill on the south side of Rome. Even less might know that this splendid Basilica - and the oldest church in Europe - is the mother church of all Roman churches that ranks even above St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.
The Basilica of St John Lateran is the official seat of the Bishop of Rome, (the Pope) and as such, it contains the papal throne. As the pope lives at the Vatican he rarely visits the church, however, it is used to celebrate Holy Thursday Mass.
Built in the 4th century - in honor of St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist - the church has played a significant role throughout history; it was here that all popes were enthroned up until 1870.
The interiors are magnificent; the basilica is home to impressive columns, large statues, mosaics and ceiling-to-ground frescoes. Of the renowned Holy Stairs (located near the Lateran Basilica) it is believed that Jesus Christ stepped on them during His Passion, and were relocated from Jerusalem to Rome by Saint Helena in the 4th-century.