The palace was the official residence of the Roman pontiffs for many centuries. Today, it houses the Papal State Historical Museum (Museo Storico dello Stato Pontificio), the offices of the Vicariate of Rome and the apartment of the Cardinal Vicar of His Holiness for Rome.
The area was named after the original owners, the Plauzi Laterani family, who owned a large palace on this site. After a member of this family, designated consul, was accused around the year 66 of conspiracy against Nero, the properties of the family, together with the adjoining palace, were confiscated.
At the beginning of the 4th century, the monumental Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano was built, and consecrated in 324 by Pope Sylvester I.
Around the middle of the 8th century, Pope Zacharias built a triclinium (formal dining room) in the ancient Lateran Palace, and decorated it with marble, glass and precious metals, mosaics and frescoes. A few decades later, Pope Leo III built another triclinium, and installed, in the center of the room paved with precious marble, a large red porphyry fountain in the shape of a shell.
In the 10th century, Pope Sergius III restored the palace after a disastrous fire. The structure was then further embellished by Pope Innocent III.
In 1309, the French Pope Clement V decided to transfer the official seat of the Papacy to Avignon, and the palace and the basilica lost their importance. Two devastating fires, in 1307 and 1361, caused irreparable damage to the palace.
When the popes returned to Rome, the palace and the basilica were considered inadequate due to the poor conditions in which were found. Consequently, the pope resided first in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, then in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. In 1377, the pope moved his residence to a new palace built in Vatican.
Near the end of the 16th century, Sixtus V demolished the ancient Lateran Palace and built the current structure, much smaller then the previous one, after a design by the architect Domenico Fontana, who was inspired by Palazzo Farnese.
HOW TO GET THERE
Palazzo del Laterano is located about 300 meters away from the San Giovanni Metro station, on the Metro Line A. The closest bus stop, Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, is located about 80 meters away, near the palace, on the bus Lines 81, 714, 792, F02 and L08.
Find a place to stay