Today we visit the church of Saint John before the Latin Gate. The church is dedicated to Saint John the Evangelist and the name refers to the ancient tradition of his time in Rome. Saint John was brought from Ephesus to Rome under orders by Emperor Domitian. He was to be punished for his faith. When John neared the city, the emperor went to meet him by the Latin Gate, one of the gates in the wall surrounding Rome. Domitian first had John tortured, then boiled in a cauldron of oil. When they brought the saint out of the boiling oil, he was still very much alive, in fact, they say refreshed, as if he had just taken a nice soak in the tub. The emperor was quite shaken by this and exiled him to the (very beautiful, by the way) island of Patmos, where he would go on to write the Apocalypse.
A much smaller chapel is built over the location where the attempted martyrdom took place. It’s called San Giovanni in Oleo, Saint John in Oil.
Our church, San Giovanni a Porta Latina, was built in the fifth century. The roofing tiles even are dated as such. One of these fifth century roofing tiles, is used as the church lectern.
A six story bell tower dating back to the eleventh century rises high above the church.
An eighth century well sits in the piazza in front of an arched portico.
Over the centuries, the church has been restored several times. During the most recent restoration, workers discovered twelfth century mosaics underneath a sheet of plaster. These mosaics, representing the book of Genesis (the creation and fall of man) and the New Testament (the redemption and renewal of man) were completely restored in 1940.
The picturesque architecture, and quiet setting of this church makes it hugely popular for weddings. It’s not uncommon for several to occur here on the same day.