Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) & Sancta Sanctorum

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Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) & Sancta Sanctorum review 32 Users say 3/5 Rate it

According to tradition, these steps (now covered with wooden plants) are the very ones Jesus climbed in the house of Pontius Pilate only to see the Roman governor wash his hands of the self-styled messiah. Emperor Constantine's mother St Helena brought these back in the fourth century. A crawl up the Scala Santa has been a fixture on every serious pilgrim's list ever since. In 1510 Martin Luther gave it a go, but halfway up he decided that relics were a theological irrelevance and walked back down again. Don't climb them unless you know 28 different prayers (one for each step); walking up is not allowed. Prepare for a queue on Good Friday.

At the top of the Holy Stairs (but also accessible by non-holy stairs to the left) is the Sancta Sanctorum ('Holy of Holies'), the privatissima chapel of the popes and one of the only monuments around here that escaped Sixtus V's revamping. Some of the best early Christian relics were kept in the crypt under the altar at one time - including the heads of saints Peter, Paul and young Agnes. Most of them have now been distributed to other churches around the city, but displayed in a glass case on the left wall is a fragment of the table on which the Last Supper was supposedly served. The real treasures here, however, are the exquisite 13th-century frescoes in the lunettes and on the ceiling, attributed to Cimabue. Once, no one but the pontifex maximus himself was allowed to set foot in the Sancta Sanctorum, but the exclusive entry policy has since been relaxed: anyone with €3.50 is welcome.


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Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) & Sancta Sanctorum details

Address
Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano

Area Rome

Transport Metro San Giovanni/bus 16, 85, 87, 186, 218, 571, 650, 665, 714/tram 3 .

Telephone 06 772 6641

Open Scala Santa Apr-Sept 6.15am-noon, 3.30-6.30pm daily; Oct-Mar 6.15am-noon, 3-6pm daily. Sancta Sanctorum (booking obligatory) Apr-Sept 10.30-11.30am, 3.30-4.30pm daily; Oct-Mar 10.30-11.30am, 3-6pm daily.

Admission Scala Santa free. Sancta Sanctorum €3.50.

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Perhaps one of the highlights of my trip to Europe last year was the unexpected, albeit very profound visit to La Scala Sancta or The Holy Stairs in Rome.

My group had no scheduled tour that afternoon so we had time to go sightseeing around Rome. We ended up at La Scala Sancta, located in a building that holds part of the old Lateran Palace or Palazzo Laterano (an ancient palace of the Roman Empire which eventually became the Papal Residence for about ten centuries). The Scala Sancta has 28 marble steps and is believed to be part of the praetorium or headquarters of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem. It was St. Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine, who brought the staircase to Rome in 326AD. According to tradition, these were the actual steps Jesus Christ walked on as he put his fate in Pilate’s hands. Droplets of what is believed to be Christ’s blood are found on the steps, encased in glass. The steps themselves are now encased in walnut wood, which is said to be more forgiving to devoted pilgrims who climb the steps on their knees.

Yes. On their knees! Which, I thought to myself, I could definitely do!

Being presented with an opportunity to experience Christ’s Passion in such a physical way was truly rare. So I readied myself with a short prayer and braced myself for the task ahead. As I looked up the stairs and saw around thirty pilgrims on their knees, I told myself: “Yakang-yaka.” (Easy as pie.)

I had no idea what I was in for. Looking back now, it was a good thing I didn’t know at the time that there were twenty eight steps, or I would have backed out early on. Walking on one’s knees can be painful, but to ascend the stairs on one’s knees? This was something else!

Climbing the first three steps was a breeze. But I could slowly feel pain as I reached the fourth step and realized it wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. But even if I wanted to back out, it was too late by then because the steps behind me were already filled up with other pilgrims, each determined to climb their way to the top. There was no way out but up.

read the rest on pinaytraveller.com

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