School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Projects

The Lateran Project

The Lateran Project.

The scavi beneath the Archibasilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano (St John Lateran) cover over 5,097 m2. They are of particular interest for the study of the transformations of Rome under Septimius Severus and Constantine and the later development of the Lateran Patriarchy.

In addition to rendering accessible the earliest phases of the Constantinian basilica and the Lateran Baptistery, the scavi contain what is believed to be the Nymphaeum of Pope Hilarus and parts of the famous Oratory of the Santa Croce.

Other earlier features of importance within the scavi include elements of the barracks and principia of the Castra Nova Equitum Singularium, constructed under Septimius Severus, a substantial bath complex and an the so-called casa trapezoidale variously interpreted as a house or inn but almost certainly a macellum.

Still earlier structures accessible for study include sections of palatial housing in use up until the second century AD.

Material from the scavi has already been extensively studied (Liverani, P. (ed.), (1998) Laterano I: Scavi sotto la Basilica di S. Giovanni in Laterano.1: Materiali. Vatican City) and there have been many important papers on different elements of the complex.

Of particular note, for example, is the major programme of research, led by Olof Brandt of the Pontificio Istituto di Archeologia Cristiana that has focussed on the Lateran baptistery. 

To date, however, there has never been a comprehensive survey of the entire complex. Some elements of the scavi have never been surveyed and many of the structures exposed within it remain ill-understood. Early plans of key areas, often reproduced, mask significant detail. 

The Lateran Project is the first attempt to undertake a fully-comprehensive survey and analysis of the complex. The Project began in 2012, following a couple of experimental seasons in which different methodological approaches were evaluated and has now completed two seasons of fieldwork.

In addition to generating a detailed survey of all visible elements of the complex, the project team are undertaking a comprehensive Ground Penetrating Radar survey both within the scavi and in the immediate vicinity. In addition to allowing the high-resolution analysis of individual structures, the survey data allows for the study of relationships between contemporary buildings.

In this respect the emerging data is notably important for the study both of the integration of the imperial horse guards and their buildings into the city under Severus and for the study of the new Christian centre established under Constantine.  No less important is the evidence the scavi yields for the way successive architects built upon earlier structures to reshape the topography of the Caelian. 

The use made by the builders of the Constantinian basilica of elements of the castra is of particular interest.

A further important aim of the Lateran Project is to provide advanced building survey training for students of the partner organisations.

Interim Reports

Read the following abstracts from papers of the British School at Rome: