The Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome,
Attributed to Giacomo van Lint (1723-1780),
Painted third quarter 18th century,
Oil on canvas
© Dorotheum Vienna, 9 April 2014 Sale, lot 523,
Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica
Just before the Jewish Passover Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and in the Temple he found people selling cattle and sheep and pigeons, and the money changers sitting at their counters there. Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple, cattle and sheep as well, scattered the money changers’ coins, knocked their tables over and said to the pigeon-sellers, ‘Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’ Then his disciples remembered the words of scripture: Zeal for your house will devour me. The Jews intervened and said, ‘What sign can you show us to justify what you have done?’ Jesus answered, ‘Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this sanctuary: are you going to raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking of the sanctuary that was his body, and when Jesus rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the words he had said.
Reflection on the painting
Today we celebrate the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica. It is a feast day that is celebrated by the entire Church, worldwide. It marks the dedication of the basilica by Pope Sylvester I in 324AD. A Latin inscription in the church reads: 'Omnium ecclesiarum Urbis et Orbis mater et caput' which means 'The mother and head of all churches of the city and of the world'. Even the façade bears an inscription saying 'Dogmate papali datur ac simul imperiali, quod sim cunctarum mater et caput ecclesiarum', meaning 'It is given by Papal and Imperial decree that I am the mother and head of all churches'. Today's feast has been celebrated since the 12th century.
Our canvas, attributed to Giacomo Van Lint, depicts the basilica fairly soon after the inauguration of the new façade of the Basilica, designed by Alessandro Galilei during the papacy of Clement XII and completed in 1735. The painting homes in on the timeless character of St John Lateran. The son of Hendrik Frans van Lint, called “lo Studio” (1684-1763), Jacob (Giacomo) earned his reputation as a vedutista, painting detailed topographical views of Rome in the manner of his father, and achieved a distinct personal style.
The Basilica is very special to us as Christians. A near-300 years of persecutions ended with Constantine's edict in 313AD, granting Christians the right to practise their faith publicly. St John Lateran became the very first basilica where Christians were able to worship freely in public. It is thus the oldest church in the West. The name 'Lateran' comes from the fact that it was constructed on the territory that belonged to the Lateranus family before it was bequested to Fausta, the wife of the Emperor Constantine.
It is a day which also reminds us of the importance of our own parish church in which each of us worships every week, in union with millions of other catholics around the world. Our Church is far larger than our own parish churches. Our Church is a world-wide communion with other Catholics throughout the world. It far transcends any church building: it is a living organism of people, all sharing the same sacraments, in Christ.
Share this Gospel Reading
Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?
Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading
Readings related to John 2:13-22
Join our community
In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: