The Holy Stairs in Rome

Holy Stairs in Rome: History, Meaning & Guidelines for Visiting

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Located in a little church across the road from the St John The Lateran Basilica – the seat of the Pope – are the 28 Holy Stairs Rome known as the Scala Sancta.

Legend has it that these stairs are the exact ones that Jesus climbed on the way to his trial in Jerusalem. The stairs are purported to have been brought to Rome by Saint Helena, who was Constantine’s mother and a convert to Christianity.

Let’s explore this amazing attraction and historical attraction together.

The History Of The Scala Sancta Holy Stairs In Rome

Scala Sancta Rome guide

The stairs that led to Pontius Pilate’s court were climbed by Jesus in his final days as he went to trial. They had such importance to the Christian faith that they were allegedly brought to Rome in 326 AD.

The Pontius Pilate steps held an initial location in the Lateran Palace before being set in their final location in 1589 by Pope Sixtus V, leading up to the Church of St Lawrence in Rome.

Church Of The Holy Stairs Rome Today

You’ll not believe it, but you can actually climb the Holy Stairs Scala Sancta!

They are usually covered with wooden protectors, and you must climb these ancient relics on your knees. The journey up the 28 marble steps that Jesus walked on is truly something special.

And even more special was the experience for some visitors in 2019! During renovation works, the wooden covers were exposed temporarily so the real stairs were uncovered and visible!

How Many Steps Are There At The Scala Sancta?

28 marble stairs make up the Scala Sancta Rome. The wooden covers serve to protect the steps. But they also hide their condition.

In 2019 when they were uncovered briefly, the scale of the wear on many of the stairs was visible, with large misshapen parts in the center of each step from centuries of climbing from thousands of pilgrims.

Wondering How To Climb The Holy Stairs?

Of course, due to their holy nature, it’s important that the stairs are well preserved.

For over 300 years they have had the wooden covers on them, to prevent further wear and tear. In addition, pilgrims must climb all the stairs on their knees!

Traditionally, believers will stop in between each step to say a quiet prayer – or Hail Mary. It gives welcome respite from the somewhat uncomfortable climb!

And, catholic tradition claims you will get 9 years shorter in purgatory if you do it right.

Martin Luther Scala Sancta Comments – What Did Luther Say About The Scala Sancta?

The Holy Stairs in Vatican city

Not everyone buys into the story that these are actually steps that made their way from Jerusalem.

Story goes that Martin Luther made his way up the steps in the early 16th century – on his knees like the others, praying in between each stair. It is claimed however that once he reached the top he proclaimed “who knows whether this is true!”

Another famous skeptic was Charles Dickens, who made the journey in 1845. He went as far as calling the whole thing “ridiculous”.

What About Scala Sancta Blood Stains?

4 areas of the stairs are covered with a gold casing and glass protector. These areas are said to cover places where spots of blood fell as Jesus made his way up the stairs.

Scala Sancta Dress Code You Should Consider

Although the Scala Sancta is technically located in Rome and not within the Vatican City walks, you should still observe the Vatican dress code in respect of this awesome structure.

This involves covering shoulders and ensuring no short skirts or offensive symbols are on display. Check out some more information on Vatican Dress code here.

Do I Need Tickets To See the Holy Stairs at the Vatican?

Do you need tickets

Non! You need no Scala Sancta tickets. It is free to climb!

You can however get tickets to enter the Scala Sancta Sanctorum for around €3.50 directly on the official website.

To get the most of the experience however why not consider a tour? Many tour providers offer combined trips covering top related attractions such as the Holy Stairs and other minor Basilicas in the city of Rome.

Vatican City travel tips Tip – Check out this Christian Rome tour for a taste of what to expect.

Where Are The Holy Stairs In Rome?

You can find the Scala Sancta in the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. Best to take the metro right to the S. Giovanni station for easiest access.

Holy Stairs Rome Opening Hours

Wondering are the Holy Stairs in Rome open during your visit?

Check live updates directly on the official website. Usually, the stairs open at 6am during the week (7am on holidays) and close for lunch. They generally close at 18.30.

How To Visit the Holy Stairs Vatican?

We recommend you get there super early – at 6am (7am on holidays).

If you are there even before the doors open, you can pretty much expect a leisurely space for yourself on the steps.

If you go midday in tourist season, you will likely be shoulder to shoulder with other pilgrims, making the experience less enjoyable.

What Else You Can Visit Near Holy Stairs

Just across the road is the St John Lateran Basilica which should definitely be checked out when you are in the area. Luckily for you we have a full guide available right here.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Where was Jesus crucified in Rome?

Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem in modern day Israel.

Why climb Holy Stairs on knees?

Climbing the stairs on your knees is an arduous task, but the Catholic church states you will receive rewards for your efforts and prayers in the afterlife!


A once in a lifetime experience! If you have more than a few days in Rome this attraction definitely needs to be added to your must-do list.

Now, try to work out what else you want to do in the Vatican City during your trip by checking out our other handy guides.

Make sure you look at our tips for skip the line tickets at the Vatican!

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