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Some few remains of the original buildings may still be traced in the city walls outside the Gate of St.

John, and a large hall decorated with paintings was uncovered in the eighteenth century within the basilica itself, behind the Lancellotti Chapel.

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This is the oldest, and ranks first among the four great "patriarchal" basilicas of Rome.

The site was, in ancient times, occupied by the palace of the family of the Laterani. Sextius Lateranus, was the first plebian to attain the rank of consul.

The ancient columns were now enclosed in huge pilasters, with gigantic statues in front.

In consequence of this the church has entirely lost the appearance of an ancient basilica, and is completely altered in character.

A few traces of older buildings also came to light during the excavations made in 1880, when the work of extending the apse was in progress, but nothing was then discovered of real value or importance.

The palace came eventually into the hands of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, through his wife Fausta, and it is from her that it derived the name by which it was then sometimes called, "Domus Faustæ".

The only part of it which still survives is the cloister, surrounded by graceful columns of inlaid marble.

They are of a style intermediate between the Romanesque proper and the Gothic, and are the work of Vassellectus and the Cosmati.

It seems probable, in spite of the tradition that Constantine helped in the work of building with his own hands, that there was not a new basilica erected at the Lateran, but that the work carried out at this period was limited to the adaptation, which perhaps involved the enlargement, of the already existing basilica or great hall of the palace. John being of later date, and due to a Benedictine monastery of St. John the Evangelist which adjoined the basilica and where members were charged at one period with the duty of maintaining the services in the church. John has now in popular usage altogether superseded the original one.

A great many donations from the popes and other benefactors to the basilica are recorded in the "Liber Pontificalis", and its splendour at an early period was such that it became known as the "Basilica Aurea", or Golden Church.

This splendour drew upon it the attack of the Vandals, who stripped it of all its treasures. Leo the Great restored it about 460, and it was again restored by Hadrian I, but in 896 it was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake ("ab altari usque ad portas cecidit").

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