The feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran is celebrated by the entire Church. It marks the dedication of the cathedral church of Rome by Pope Sylvester I in 324. This church is the cathedra (or chair) of the bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. A Latin inscription in the Church reads: “omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput.” Translated, this means, “The mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world.”
The basilica was originally named the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior. However, it is called St. John Lateran because it was built on property donated to the Church by the Laterani family, and because the monks from the monastery of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Divine served it.
The Feast of the Dedication of Saint John Lateran
The anniversary of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which was erected by the Emperor Constantine, has been observed on this day since the 12th century. This feast was at first observed only in Rome but later in honor of the basilica, which is called the mother church of Christendom, the celebration was extended to the whole Latin Church. This action was taken as a sign of devotion to and of unity with the Chair of Peter which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “presides over the whole assembly of charity.”
A one-foot high standing crucifix with micro mosaics.
Micro mosaics are very small mosaics made of glass or stone. In this crucifix they are actually miniature mosaics of the four major Basillicas in Rome: St. Peter, St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran and St. Paul Outside the Walls.
In 2008 Father Kunst purchased a series of holy year bricks from a Roman citizen selling them on auction. They belonged to the man’s grandmother who had recently died at 104 years of age. The man’s grandfather worked at the Spanish Embassy at the Vatican. On one of the bricks is written the notation that it was intended as a gift to his grandfather and his family.
The bricks are from all the major basilicas in Rome. These particular ones are from the Basilica of St. John Lateran.
Holy Year Bricks
In the Catholic tradition a holy year or Jubilee is a great religious event, a year of reconciliation and forgiveness. It dates to biblical times and was evident even in the Law of Moses where it was celebrated every fifty years.
Holy years are marked with much pomp and ceremony by the Vatican. There are specific Holy Doors at each of the four main basilicas, and they are marked by the Holy Year bricks which are ceremoniously removed before the pope can walk through the Holy Door to signify the start of the Holy Year.
The bricks are used to seal the Holy Year Doors between Jubilees at the four major basilicas in Rome. Great pomp and ceremony is connected to these bricks. In earlier times, the pope would literally take a hammer to smash through the bricks. Crowds gathered to watch this ceremony and to collect pieces of the bricks as souvenirs or relics of the Holy Year. This practice, however, became dangerous as people were killed attempting to grab the bricks. Eventually that practice ended and the bricks are now removed in advance and distributed to people working at the Vatican.
Holy Year bricks are quite prized, ornate and large with symbols of the papacy on them.
The anniversary of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, which was erected by the Emperor Constantine, has been observed on this day since the 12th century. This feast was at first observed only in Rome but later in honor of the basilica, which is called **the mother church of Christendom**, the celebration was extended to the whole Latin Church. This action was taken as a sign of devotion to and of unity with the Chair of Peter which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote, “presides over the whole assembly of charity.”
Today’s feast celebrates a mystery that is always relevant: God’s desire to build a spiritual temple in the world, a community that worships him in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23-24). But this observance also reminds us of the importance of the material buildings in which the community gathers to celebrate the praises of God. Every community therefore has the duty to take special care of its own sacred buildings, which are a precious religious and historical patrimony. For this we call upon the intercession of Mary Most Holy, that she help us to become, like her, the “house of God,” living temple of his love.
— Benedict XVI, Angelus Address, November 9, 2008