The San Giovanni a Porta Latina Church in Rome is one of the city’s oldest and most picturesque churches. Although originally built in the 5th century, the present look is the fruit of several restorations that have taken place in later years. Thanks to the medieval portico, supported by classical columns, the cute well in the courtyard and the enormous cedar tree providing shade many Romans choose to have their wedding pictures taken at San Giovanni in Porta Latina.
San Giovanni a Porta Latina Church Rome
Address, opening hours and admission
Address: Via di Porta Latina, 17 – Rome (tel. + 39 0670475938). Bus: 118, 360, 628. Opening hours: From 07.30 till 12.30 and from 15.00 till 19.00 Admission: Free. Tourists are not allowed inside during mass.
The San Giovanni a Porta Latina Basilica was probably built on the spot where there used to be a heathen temple dedicated to the Goddess Diana.
The present church is dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist, who was martyred near the Porta Latina in the year 92. In the presence of Emperor Domitian he was submerged in a barrel of burning oil. He survived the ordeal and was banned to the island of Patmos. (The nearby San Giovanni in Oleo Chapel is dedicated to this event.)
The basilica was built in the 5th century, but restorations in 772 and in 1191 gave it its present aspect. The last renovation was an attempt to restore it to the way it was in the early middle ages.
In the beginning of the 20th century some medieval frescoes were found in the church.
A last restoration took place in 1940.
The facade is preceded by a portico consisting of five marble arches. Of the four marble and granite columns supporting the arches three of the capitals are Ionic and one is Doric.
The 12th century bell-tower, which leans slightly to the right, has five floors and is decorated with trifora’s on the top floors. The bottom one has a monofora and the second floor a bifora. The bell itself stems from 1723.
The 10th century well in the courtyard is flanked by two 4th century pillars. The Latin inscription reads, “In the name of the Father and the Holy Ghost”, followed by “Come to the water thirsty ones”. The engraver was probably called Stefano, as can be deduced from the last inscription.
The interior consists of three naves. The marble columns separating these naves are all different.
Some roof tiles bear a 5th century taxation stamp, so it was relatively easy to date the church. One of these tiles is now used inside the church, as a lectern.
Both underneath the porch and inside the campanile there are tombstones and fragments of Roman and early Christian slabs as well as fragments of medieval frescoes. Also underneath the portico, the original spire of the San Giovanni in Oleo Chapel can be seen.
The 46 frescoes adorning the church’s interior were made in the 12th century and show scenes from both the Old and the New Testament.