The 28 marble steps of the Holy Stairway can only be climbed on one’s knees. For those who
cannot do this, there are stairs on either side of the Holy Stairway to ascend to the top which you
can walk up. To the left at the top of the stairs is a souvenir shop and to the right is the remains
of the Pope’s private chapel (Santa Sanctorum). The 28 marble steps (which are covered in wood
for protection) are said to be those that Christ ascended in Pontius Pilate’s palace during his trial.
They were thought to have been brought to Rome by St. Helena, Constantine’s mother.
These steps were moved to their present site by Pope Sixtus V when the old Lateran Palace was destroyed
by fire. No foot can touch the Holy Stairs so they are covered by wooden boards. It is said that only
the faithful can make it from bottom to top on their knees. This is a penance that is also performed by
the faithful, especially on Good Friday.