One of the great churches in Rome is San Giovanni in Laterano.
This is Rome’s first Christian basilica. This is Rome’s cathedral. It is here that the pope officiates in his capacity as bishop of Rome. As the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, it contains the papal throne (Cathedra Romana), and ranks above all other churches in the Roman Catholic Church, even above the Basilica San Pietro.

When you visit this church, don't miss the Cloisters. The Cloisters, all that remains of the Benedictine monastery, was built in the 1220s and 1230s. Each of the four sides of the cloister is made up of five sections which are divided into five section of small arches. The arches rest on pairs of small columns of different shapes and designs: some plain, solid marble, some twisted spirals.

Many of the columns are decorated with beautiful 13th century Cosmatesque mosaics.

The word cosmatesque is derived from the Cosmati, one of the leading families of marble craftsmen in Rome who created such geometrical decorations in the 12th and 13th centuries. Cosmati work is different than other mosaic work in that it is a glass mosaics used in combination with marble.


Above the arches runs a mosaic band with inlaid marble...

Walk around the covered passageway. You'll see a beautiful example of 13th century fresco of the Virgin Mary...


Other artifacts seen come from archeological excavations in the area surrounding the Basilica and Cloisters, some dating from the Roman ages.  The Cloisters also contain pieces taken from the basilica itself, placed out here by Francesco Borromini during his renovation of the church in the mid-17th century.  Among the artifacts are a fragment of a small twisted Cosmatesque column perhaps from the Altar of Mary Magdalene, testifying to the age-long history of San Giovanni in Laterano.

A 13th century Cosmatesque panel...

NOTE: There is a €2.00 charge to enter the Cloisters, but it's worth it.

MOST IMPORTANT NOTE: There are FREE public restrooms in the Cloisters!

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