San Giovanni in Laterano

The Lateran basilica is an extraordinarily important complex, known as the Caput et Mater of all churches of Western Christendom, it is the home church of the Bishop of Rome. It was founded by Constantine on the site of one of two forts previously used to house the Imperial Horseguard (the equites singulares).

Beneath the basilica that today’s visitors see lies an extensive labyrinth of excavated spaces (scavi), opened up from the c.18 onwards. These contain parts not only of the earliest phases of the basilica and baptistery, and several important Late Antique Christian buildings but also substantial parts of the Castra Nova of the equites singulares, a bath complex, market and shop buildings. Beneath all this lies the remains of a substantial palatial dwelling which preserves many of its frescoes intact.

The project is a collaboration between Newcastle University, the Vatican Museums and the British School at Rome. The survey of the Lateran scavi will have important implications for students of Church architecture, soldiers in Rome under the high empire, and more generally of Roman topography.