The oldest and first in rank of the four basilicas of Rome, Italy. The name is derived from the Laterani family, on the site of whose palace the basilica stands. Constantine presented this palace to the Church. The original church building, probably adapted from the hall of the palace, was dedicated to the Saviour, and from its splendor was known as the Basilica Aurea. Though several times destroyed and rebuilt, the basilica retained its ancient form, being divided by rows of columns into aisles and having an atrium with colonnades. The tasteless restoration of the 17th century changed its appearance. A monastery was formerly between the basilica and the city wall of which the cloister still remains. The original apse survived until 1878, when it was destroyed and a deeper apse built. The ancient mosaics have been preserved. The high altar, which is of wood and is believed to have been used by Saint Peter, is now encased in marble. In the upper part of the baldachin are the heads of the Apostles, Peter and Paul. The baptistery is an octagonal edifice with porphyry columns. The font is of green basalt. This basilica has been the cathedral of Rome since the 4th century.