Holy Stairs (Scala Santa) in Rome

La Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) is one of the most valuable relics of the Christian faith, located in Rome. 28 marble steps lead to the Holy of Holies (Latin: Sancta Sanctorum), the chapel of the popes, located in the Lateran Palace (Italian: Palazzo del Laterano).

The legend says, it is the very stairs, down which procurator Pontius Pilate walked Jesus Christ to judgement.

Scala Santa Rome
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History

According to the Holy Scripture, the trial of Jesus was held in Pilate’s property (pretoria) in Jerusalem. Sentenced to death the son of God went along wide marble steps. Pontiff Sergius II writes that in the 4th century AD, due to Iulia Helena Augusta, mother of Emperor Constantine I, the relic remained in Rome. Bishop Sylvester I received gifts from her and ordered to establish the relic in the papal palace.

At the end of the 16th century, Lateran Palace was significantly reconstructed. The Scala Santa acquired its current location. It is also assumed that 4 more steps were added to the original 24 ones. Construction works were carried out in a short time, workers did not dare to desecrate the relic with their feet. The staircase was set out from top to bottom.

By the end of the 19th century, the worship of the Scala Santa or Stairs of Pilate (Latin: Scala Pilati) reached its peak. Numerous pilgrims flocked to the Lateran Palace on the eve of all the great church holidays. People gathered in order to walk the way from the foot of the stairs to the Basilica of San Lorenzo (Italian: Cappella di San Lorenzo in Palatio) on their knees reading the appropriate prayers at every step. Finally, they had to cover marble under the wooden blades to prevent it from complete destruction.

Scala Santa
wikipedia.org

All the believers feel a great thrill when looking at traces of blood from the Savior’s back tormented with whips during the procession to Calvary. The slits in the form of a cross on the protective wooden panels allow to reach the most valuable relics of the Holy Stairs. Now the stairs have special windows with a good field of view which are mounted in the 2nd, 11th and 28th steps.

Architecture

The frescoes of medieval painter Baldassare Croce create special atmosphere of the path leading to the Sancta Sanctorum. The centerpiece is a painting depicting crucified Christ, Mother of God and St. John. The rest of the illustrations of the Holy Scripture emphasize the importance of the Lateran Palace and the Scala Santa. In 2007, restoration of the stairs was made and works of Croce found lost colors and expressiveness.

Holy Stairs in Rome
Aleksandr Stepanov / Shutterstock.com

Near the first step of the Scala Santa, there are two white marble statues. One of them is “The Kiss of Judas” by Alberto Giacometti, and the second is ” Pilate’s court” made by the same sculptor. Giacometti lived and worked in XX century, his works are dated from 1901 to 1966.

Interesting facts

It is believed that the pilgrims who have climbed the Scala Santa during the celebration of a great post (every Friday) acquire indulgence. During all the other days, visitors get a partial remission of sins if they walk all the steps on their knees with an open and humble heart.

Being on the ancient steps, Catholics send up “Prayers while climbing the Scala Santa” and Orthodox – Akathist to the Divine Passion of Christ.

There are sidesteps to the Holy of Holies passing a series of worshipers on bended knees.

The Basilica of San Lorenzo or Sancta Sanctorum, where the steps lead, is the place where the treasures of the Roman pontiffs are kept. And the most valuable property of the chapel is the miraculous icon with a face of the Savior Akeropit (the 6th century AD).

Location, transportation, opening hours

  • Address: Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterno, 14, 00185 Roma.
  • Metro: Line A, station: San Giovanni.
  • Bus: № 16, 51, 81, 85, 87, 650, 665, 673, 218, 360, 590, 792 (bus stop: Porta San Giovanni).
  • Tram: № 3, 8 (tram stop: Porta San Giovanni- Carlo Felice).
  • Opening hours: Monday – Saturday: from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (7:00 in summer), Sunday and holidays: from 7:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (7:00 p.m. in summer).
  • Holy Masses at the Holy of Holies: Monday – Saturday: at 6:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m, Sunday and holidays: at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 5:30 p.m.
  • Confessions: Monday – Saturday: from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Sunday and holidays: from 7:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
  • The cost of a ticket to Sancta Sanctorum is 3,50 euro. Opening hours: from 9:30 a.m. to 12:40 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 5:10 p.m., also there is an opportunity to rent an audio guide. To pray on the steps of Scala Santa is absolutely free. A prayer book written in one of the 8 languages ​​costs 2 euro.
  • Phone number for information and reservations: +39 329 75 11 111
  • Official websitewww.scala-santa.it
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Author: Kate Zusmann

For the last five years I live in Rome, Italy. Recently, I've graduated from the American university of John Cabot with major in communication and minor in entrepreneurship. I have a passion for writing, traveling, and exploring new things.