The original marble steps now accessible
11 April 2019
Pontifical Shrine of the Scala Santa, Rome
On Thursday 11 April, the Scala Santa of the Pontifical Shrine in Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano (Rome), closed for restoration work since last summer, will be reopened to the public on an extraordinary basis.
The staircase – which according to the christian tradition is the same one that Jesus ascended in Pontius Pilate’s palace in Jerusalem on the day He was condemned to death, and which Saint Helen had transported to Rome in the year 326 – will be accessible to faithful and visitors in its original state, until 9 June, Solemnity of Pentecost.
For the first time in around 300 years, the 28 marble steps will appear without their wooden coverings, added in 1723 at the behest of Pope Innocent XIII to protect them from wear due to the intense flow of pilgrims who devotedly climbed them on their knees for centuries.
For two months, it will therefore be possible to access the staircase without the walnut panels – currently under restoration thanks to the bequest of Ms. Lucia Caprara – and to view places of a particularly evocative nature and of sacred importance where it is believed that Christ left traces of His blood. Three medieval crosses, set into the marble to commemorate that event, will now become visible again: the first in porphyry at the beginning of the staircase, another in bronze at the end, and the third on the eleventh stair, where according to tradition Jesus fell, breaking the marble with His knee.
Under the technical and scientific direction of the Vatican Museums, with the contribution of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, the restorers have brought to light the ancient marble, gathering from under the wooden cover a multitude of written notes, ex voto, coins and photographs left by the faithful, and now conserved by the Passionist Fathers who since 1853 have safeguarded the Shrine, at the behest of Pope Pius IX.