Emperor Constantine built the church, and here it has been for over 1,500 years. This church survived extreme disasters: fires, looting and earthquakes. It was destroyed twice and then restored. Today it is the second largest church in Rome, after the Church of San Pietro.
Today a magnificent church stands here, however it was not always so. Once, two important buildings stood here during the Roman Empire. One was the new fortress of the Praetorian Guard, an elite unit of the Imperial Roman army whose members served as personal bodyguards to the Roman emperors. The fortress was destroyed in 312 and its remains are located just below the basilica, the central space of the church.
The second building was the first Laterano palace, which belonged to a family called "Lateranus." This palace was also destroyed and the basilica became the cathedral of Rome. Popes lived here for almost 1,000 years.
Though the structure looks simple and modest, the truth is that the interior of the church is magnificent and prestigious and is an example of magnificent Roman construction. Notice the decorations made of pure gold, cartography, delicate handicraft and sparkling gems.
The church also has an original obelisk from Egypt. There are many statues of the Christian saints in front of the church, and two bell towers flank the impressive building.