The Archbasilica Cathedral of the Most Holy Savior and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran is also known as the Papal Archbasilica of Saint John in Lateran, Saint John Lateran, or the Lateran Basilica. It is the oldest and highest ranking of the four major papal basilicas as well as one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome, holding the unique title of "archbasilica". Founded in 324 by Constantine the Great, it is the oldest public church in the city of Rome, and the oldest basilica of the Western world.
The church has been destroyed by fire twice, has been rebuilt several times and is therefore very diverse in style: from the magnificent 4th century baptistery to the majestic Baroque interior. The eastern facade, through which one enters the church, is the work of Alessandro Galilei (1732-35), while the northern facade was designed by Fontana when he rebuilt the Lateran Palace. The facade is topped by 15 huge statues of Christ and the apostles, visible from miles away.
The baptistery was once part of the original complex, but was given its current octagonal shape in the fifth century. In the early days of Christianity, all believers were baptized here.
The obelisk in the square, rising 30 meters high, is the tallest and oldest obelisk in Rome.
Across the street, opposite the Lateran Palace, is the entrance to the Scala Sancta (Holy Staircase), where Christ was said to have climbed during his trial before Pilate. They were brought to Rome from Jerusalem by Constantine's mother, Helena. On one side of the staircase is the entrance to the Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies), where there is a painting of Christ, which according to tradition is the work of St. Luke and an angel. It used to be the Pope's private chapel.