Transfiguration: Feast for the Lateran Basilica

Did you know that today is the titular feast of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Cathedral of Rome?

"But Father! But Father", I can hear you objecting. "Don’t you know that that basilica is called ‘St. John‘? How can the Transfiguration of the Lord be the titular feast?"

Glad you asked. The real name of the Lateran Basilica is the Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior, St. John Baptist and St. John the Evangelist at the Lateran. So, for a titular feast you really need a feast of the Lord.

While today is the main day for the basilica, they do make much over the two saints John as well. I do too. For my "onomastico", as the Italians call it, or "name day" I claim both the Baptist and the evangelist. That way I get two says in the summer (don’t forget the feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist) and one in the winter.

And let us not forget that the Lateran Basilica is a Major Papal (formerly Patriarchal) Basilica. There are lots of minor basilicas in Rome and throughout the world There were five Patriarchal Basilicas in Rome to go with the five ancient patriarchal sees, four major patriarchal basilicas and one minor. How did that happen? The patriarchs always were allocated (symbolically) a basilica in Rome, thus Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch, had St. Peter’s in the Vatican, St. Paul’s outside the walls, and St. Mary Major. When Jerusalem was added as a patriarchate it was assigned St. Lawrence outside the walls, though it remained a minor basilica.

The Bishop of Rome as Patriarch of the West had the Lateran Basilica obviously. And he still does, even though the Pope seems to have dropped the title of Patriarch of the West (remember that?). Interesting move that. And now some of the Orthodox are irritated that the Pope dropped the title.

I opined a long time ago that by dropping the title the Pope might be signaling that he is not patriarch of the West ONLY, but patriarch of pretty much everywhere (except for outer space, which I think belongs to someone else whom I shall not name).

Anyway, this is the titular feast of the Lateran Basilica.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Dr. Eric says:

    “…except for outer space, which I think belongs to someone else whom I shall not name…”

    If I remember correctly, during an ad limina visit in 1970, the Bishop of Orlando, FL introduced himself to H.H. Paul VI as “The Bishop of Orlando, Florida and the Moon.”

    It seems that there is a rule (canon?) that states that once a new territory is discovered (settled?) that the bishop’s see from where the journey originated becomes the bishop of then new territory.

    I may have read that on this website.

    Also, I thought that the Lateran Basilica/Pope’s Cathedral already had a primary Feast Day on 9 November. Why is the Titular Feast the Transfiguration as opposed to another Feast of Our Lord?

  2. Rob F. says:

    Dr. Eric,

    It is customary to celebrate both the anniversary of the dedication of a church as well as the festival day of its patron with special solemnity. The anniversary of the dedication of the Lateran is November 9. But who is its patron, what is his day? That is the question Father Zed has answered.

  3. Dr. Eric says:

    OK, but WHY is the Transfiguration the titular feast and not another Feast of Our Lord? Why not the Incarnation, the Nativity, the Presentation, sometime in Holy Week, Easter, the Ascension, or Christ the King?

  4. Hidden One says:

    I would guess, “Because whoever was in charge of picking it liked that one.”

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