Scala Santa

Piazza S. Giovanni in Laterano - 00184 Rome
Esquilino [R.XV]
Celio [1G]

Almost in front of Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano the building of the Scala Santa Sancta Sanctorum rises up, Sixstus V commissioned Domenico Fontana (1585-90) to build it to place the private chapel of Popes(Sancta Sanctorum).
It was the ancient Chapel of Saint Lawrence built by the emperor Constantine and reconstructed again in 1277 by pope Nicholas III who placed here three marble portals coming from Jerusalem's Pretorio which nowadays are in the Councils' hall of the Patriarchal Palace.

The chapel is always closed but through the grating of little windows it is possible to admire the interior which appears to be a jewel of cosmatesque art of 1278. The ceiling is made of mosaics. On the walls 28 tabernacles can be found.

On the altar of the chapel, preciously decorated by the Cosmati, there is the celebrated image of Acheiropoeton not painted by human hand. It is a portrait of Jesus painted in about VI-VII centuries on wood. During the Middle Ages they believed that it was depicted by the angels and it was taken into procession by Popes to avoid the calamities.

The inscription above the altar says non est in toto sanctior orbe locus, that means "here we are in front of the holiest place of the world"

For to have an access to the chapel the Pope put into work the stair of honour of the Papal palace. From the second half of the XVth century it was falsely identified with the same stair of Praetorium of Jerusalem which Jesus climbed up to submit to Pontium Pilate.

That's why until today the faithfuls climb it up it by knees.

In the atrium the marble groups can be found among which there is the Kiss of Judas and the Ecce Homo of Ignazio Jacometti (1854). In the middle the Scala Santa flanked by other 4 stairs is composed of 28 marble steps protected by wooden tables to avoid wearing- out.
On the walls and on the vault there are frescos of GianBattista Ricci, Giacomo Stella,Paris Nogari, Andrea Lilio, Paolo Brill, Giovanni Baglioni.

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