St. John at the Latin Gate

Prior to 1960, today (May 6) used to be celebrated as the Feast of St. John at the Latin Gate. This feast commemorates the journey that St. John the Evangelist made to Rome during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, about the time St. John wrote the Apocalypse. Domitian had sentenced St. John to death. John’s captors attempted to execute him at Rome’s Latin Gate (the gate facing Latium) by dipping him in a vat of boiling oil. However, God miraculously saved him.

Some people think the story is apocryphal. I prefer to believe it because I like to think that St. John visited Rome. The Latin Gate is near the Lateran, so St. John would have met his near-martyrdom near what is now the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. That’s the cathedral church of Rome and mother church of the entire world, and it’s dedicated to Our Savior, to St. John the Baptist, and to (wait for it) St. John the Evangelist. Also, St. John would been able to see the See of St. Peter. I hope that he was able to venerate St. Peter’s relics and meet the reigning Pope at the time (St. Clement I). St. John would also be unique among the Apostles for witnessing both 1.) the destruction of the earthly Jerusalem and 2.) the first days of Papal Rome, Jerusalem’s replacement as the earthly seat of God’s Kingdom. Evocative, anyway.

For more information about this feast, go to the New Liturgical Movement. You can also read this account by Fr. Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B. Below, I’ve added two photos that I took in Rome during the summer of 2007. First, here’s the oratory built on the site of St. John’s would-be martyrdom just inside the Latin Gate. It’s called St. John in oleo (“in oil”).


Here’s the fresco above the sanctuary of the Basilica of St. John at the Latin Gate. From the looks of it, it shows St. John being sentenced to death.


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