An easy walk from the Colosseum and Forum, this is Rome's first cathedral, and the Mother Church of the whole world.
Often overlooked by tourists, it's a hugely interesting edifice having included the residence of the Popes prior to their exile to Avignon. This is the Cathedral of Rome, where the Pope performs his day-job as Bishop of Rome.
The old Papal Palace contains the steps from Pilate's house in Jerusalem, a pilgrimage site. Another Christian "relic" of dubious provenance, of which there are thousands in Rome. This one claims to have the bloodstains of Jesus embedded in the steps.
The cathedral is full of intricate sculpture, excellent marble floor-work and Papal tombs, and contains a High Altar at which only the Pope can perform.
Walking from the Forum, you will arrive at the entrance on the northern Nave. Don't forget to go round the front of the cathedral and see the facade! The first thing you'll see is the obelisk of Thutmoses III, the oldest in Rome dating from 15thC BCE. Pinched from Egypt by Constantine, it was originally in the Circus Maximus.
A short walk away from the eastern facade, in the direction of the Metro station, is a part of the Aurelian wall containing the Porta San Giovanni.
Entrance is free, apart from the cloister area which currently costs 3 Euros. Remember - as for most Italian churches - to take a shawl to cover your shoulders and have your knees covered too. Or you won't get in. I cart around a pair of tracksuit trousers and a T-shirt in my day-pack specifically for this prpose!
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