Lateran, name applied to a group of buildings of SE Rome facing the Piazza San Giovanni. They are on land once belonging to the Laterani; it was presented to the Church by Constantine. The Lateran basilica is the cathedral of Rome, the pope's church, the first-ranking church of the Roman Catholic Church. It is officially named the Basilica of the Savior, familiarly called St. John Lateran, from a monastery of St. John formerly nearby. The basilica, built perhaps before 311, was restored in the 5th and the 10th cent., rebuilt in the 14th and the 15th cent., and altered again in the 16th, the 17th, and the 18th cent.; the main facade was added in 1733-36. Much of the decoration dates from the Middle Ages and includes the mosaics of the apse, which are among the most celebrated. Frescoes by Gentile da Fabriano and Pisanello have disappeared. However, eight 13th-century frescoes in the Sancta Sanctorum chapel (St. Laurence's chapel), painted over and barred to the public in the 16th cent., were restored and opened to the public in 1995. The Lateran baptistery, built probably in the 4th cent., was much restored. The Lateran palace, the papal residence until the 14th cent., survived, greatly changed, until the 16th cent., when it was demolished to make way for the much smaller present palace. It now contains the pontifical museum of Christian antiquities. The older palace was the scene of the five Lateran Councils, and the new one of the signing of the Lateran Treaty.
Lateran and Laterano are the shared names of several architectural projects throughout Rome. The properties were once owned by the Lateranus family of the former Roman Empire. The Laterani lost their properties to Emperor Constantine who in turn gave it to the Catholic Church.

The most famous Lateran buildings are the Lateran Palace, once called the Palace of the Popes, and the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome, which although part of Italy is a property of the Holy See that has extra-territorial privileges as a result of the 1929 Lateran Treaty. As the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope, St. John Lateran holds the Papal cathedra in its apse. The Lateran is Christendom's earliest basilica, and is located on one of the 7 hills of Rome, the Caelian.

The inscription at the base of the columns on either side of the central entrance door reads: SACROS LATERAN ECCLES OMNIUM URBIS ET ORBIS ECCLESIARUM MATER ET CAPUT. It translates to "Sacred Lateran Church Mother and Head of All Churches of the City and the World".

The doors to the house of the ancient Roman Senate, the Curia Hostilia, are the main entrance doors to the Basilica de San Giovanni in Laterano. These doors are very impressive bronze doors, decorated with stars and acorns. Most of the original churches in Rome contain Roman artifacts. Some of the churches also are built over original churches. These churches preserve many of the vestiges of the old Roman Empire.

Constantine I gave San Giovanni to the Pope. Attached to the Lateran is a baptistry, one of the oldest in Christendom. The baptistry contains the story of Constantine's victory at the Milvian Bridge in AD 312.

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