The Scala Sancta (English: Holy Stairs, Italian: Scala Santa) are a set of 28 white marble steps located within a building in Rome near the Lateran Basilica
According to the Catholic tradition, they are the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial during the events known as the Passion. The stairs were, reputedly, brought to Rome by St. Helena in the fourth century. For centuries, the Scala Sancta has attracted Christian pilgrims who wish to honor the Passion of Jesus.
Medieval legends claim that the Holy Stairs were brought from Jerusalem to Rome about 326 by St. Helena, mother of Constantine the Great. In the Middle Ages, they were known as Scala Pilati or "Stairs of Pilate". From old plans it appears that they led to a corridor of the Lateran Palace, near the Chapel of St. Sylvester, and were covered with a special roof. In 1589, Sixtus V had the papal palace, then in ruins, demolished to make way for the construction of a new one, he ordered the Holy Stairs be reconstructed in their present location, before the Sancta Sanctorum (Holy of Holies), named for the many precious relics preserved there, including the celebrated icon of Santissimi Salvatore Acheiropoieton ("not made by human hands") which on certain occasions used to be carried through Rome in procession. These holy treasures, which since Leo X (1513–21) had not been seen by anybody, have been the object of dissertations by Grisar and Lauer.[when?]
The Scala Sancta are encased in protective wood and may only be ascended on the knees. For common use, the staircase is flanked by four additional staircases, two on each side, constructed around 1589. Climbing the Holy Stairs on one's knees is a devotion much in favor with pilgrims and the faithful. Several popes have performed the devotion. As part of the ceremonies opening the Holy Year in 1933, Cardinal Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani, Vicar of Rome, led a crowd of hundreds in mounting the steps on their