While many associate St. Peter’s Basilica as the primary church of the Pope, this is a common misconception. In fact, the Pope’s official ecclesiastical seat is the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, which serves as the cathedral for the Diocese of Rome, with the Pope officiating as its Bishop.
The history of this significant basilica dates back to the 4th century, beginning with the establishment of the first building on land gifted by the Lateran family to Emperor Constantine. The original basilica, along with its subsequent reconstructions, endured destruction from fires, earthquakes, and conflicts. Despite these devastations, the Lateran remained the site for the consecration of popes until the papacy returned from Avignon in the 14th century, only to discover the church and the adjacent palace in disrepair.
It was Pope Innocent X who, in 1646, initiated the construction of the current majestic structure. The Lateran Basilica stands out in Rome with its impressive facade, which is adorned with 15 monumental statues, including representations of Christ, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, and twelve ecclesiastical scholars. Below its elevated altar lies the relic of a modest wooden table, which, according to tradition, was used by St. Peter to celebrate Mass.
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