chapter  11
22 Pages

The basilica of St. John Lateran and the post-tridentine papacy

Refashioning the sacred landscape
WithIngrid D. Rowland

The traditional rite involved an immense procession of pope, cardinals, bishops, priests and Swiss guards winding their way across the city from St. Peter's Basilica up to the summit of the Capitoline Hill, onwards through the Forum to arrive at last at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, site of the bishopric of Rome, and therefore 'the mother and head of all churches of the City and the world'. Only a handful of images survive to show what the Lateran's interior looked like before Borromini's interventions. Of these, a badly faded fresco by Filippo Gagliardi, painted circa 1636, is closest to showing what Borromini might have seen. Because of its age and prestige, the Lateran contained a series of monumental tombs, most of them dating from the twelfth century and later. Borromini dismantled these, and began to recompose them, incorporating their fragments into his own Baroque designs.