The idolatry of Rome–the “Scala Sancta”

There is a staircase in Rome–the seat of religious harlotry–that, supposedly, people can ascend on their knees and gain some pitiful “indulgence” from the man who sits in a temple as God. Spurgeon wrote about it as he witnessed this atrocity:

WHILE traveling in Italy it was our good fortune to fall in with our esteemed friend, Dr. Jobson, a Wesleyan brother well known to fame as a preacher of the gospel, and known also to his numerous friends as an artist of no mean order. By his kindness we are able to present our readers with a view of the stairs on the north side of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, at Rome, which are superstitiously reputed to be the identical steps which our Savior descended when he left the judgment hall of Pilate. No mention is made of steps in the gospels, but that is of small consequence to the Church of Rome, which recognizes tradition as quite sufficient authority. There are twenty-eight marble steps of considerable breadth, and we are asked to believe that they were transported from Jerusalem to Rome by miraculous agency. We remember a cottage which was so dilapidated that, to our knowledge, the father gathered up the steps of the stairs, and sent his boy with them to the landlord, with the message, “Please, sir, father has sent you our stairs, and would be glad of a new set,” but these marble slabs are in excellent repair and of great weight, and must have required a considerable amount of angelic engineering to remove them to their present site. However, for many a long year doubters concerning the authenticity of the holy stairs have been judged to be rank infidels, and have been considered worthy of the direst pains of perdition.

[...]

Our abhorrence of Popery and everything verging upon it rose to a white heat as we saw how it can lower an intelligent nation to the level of fetish worship, and associate the name of the ever-blessed Jesus with a groveling idolatry. If our mild milk-and-water Protestants could see Popery with their own eyes, they might have less to say against [Protestant] bigotry; and if those who play at ornate worship could see whither their symbolism tends, they would start back aghast, and adhere henceforth to the severest simplicity. Perhaps Luther would never have become a Reformer had it not been for his visit to Rome and his ascent of these very stairs. In the city where he expected to find the church of God in all its holiness, he found sin rampant beyond all precedent. “It is almost incredible,” says he, “what infamous actions are committed at Rome; one would require to see it and hear it in order to believe it. It is an ordinary saying that if there is a hell, Rome is built upon it. It is an abyss from whence all sins proceed.” Nor did he speak as an exaggerating enthusiast, for Machiavelli’s witness was that the nearer you came to the capital of Christendom the less you found of the Christian spirit. “We Italians,” said the great historian, “are chiefly indebted to the church and the priests for our having become a set of profane scoundrels.”

6 thoughts on “The idolatry of Rome–the “Scala Sancta”

  1. Dear 4P:

    Great minds must think alike (or you’re just peaking over my shoulder).

    I was recently pondering doing something on the Scala Santa when BAM, you beat me to it.

    But unlike the topic of Mary, I hadn’t started anything on it yet.

    – The Pilgrim

  2. Abomination!
    Blasphemy!!
    Anathema!!!

    The Romish whore and everything she stands for is fit for absolutely nothing but being cast back into the blackened pit from whence it arose.

    I can scarcely imagine a more overt or perverse evil than the usurping of God’s glory of which Mystery Babylon – the fountainhead of all idolatry – is guilty of attempting with all her demonic power and cunning and shrewd deception every minute of every hour of every day! Hers is the very height and the distilled essence of Satanic hubris and wickedness for her aim is ever to exalt her throne above that of God Almighty!

    But oh how low shall she be brought when the King of Kings and Lord of Lords returns to earth in great glory and power rendereing judgment and justice to the powers and principalities of this fallen, sin sick and corrupted world system! In that day there will be two camps and all will be divided into the sheep and the goats, and those hell spawned rebels, the sons and daughters of Satan who have worshipped the Baals and Ashterahs of their own depraved hearts will find themselves cast into the everlasting lake of fire as the heavens rejoice: “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.”</i – Rev. 19:1-2.

    In Him,
    CD

  3. P.L. Fromberg says:

    Wow, I don’t know who you all are. I googled the scala sancta and your site came up. Since, I’m not catholic, I can’t really disagree with whats printed in the article(though you do seem to be a bit, shall I say, over the top a bit). But what I’m commenting on is the idea, in the article, that the stairs were somehow magically transported. The reality is much simpler. The story is that Constantine’s mother had them dismantled from Pilate’s villa, shipped to Rome, and reassembled with the sanctum sanctorum at the top. Shipping huge things were certainly not uncommon to the Romans of the age.

  4. Josh H. says:

    I also found your site through a Google search for “scala sancta.” I’m a devout protestant (Baptist) who has no particular beef with the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, we could learn much from them.

    I certainly have my qualms with the doctrine of purgatory, in general, and indulgences, in particular (the two doctrines being bound up together); and I furthermore doubt these stairs are the ones leading to the original praetorium. However I do not believe kneeling and praying at these steps is particularly idolatrous. They are not worshipping the steps themselves.

    I see no difference between this act and kneeling at the altar of a protestant church. Protestants do not worship altars. Roman Catholics do not worship the Scala Sancta

    And if we are going to fault them for believing a particular place to be holy, then we must likewise fault protestants who hold the “Holy Land” & many of its sites in some high regard. In fact the whole “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” So why would one site be deemed holier than any other by anyone, Roman Catholic or Protestant? I think that if we are to be consistent in this matter, then that is a question that must be considered.

  5. Hi Josh,

    Have you been to the Scala Sancta? The post provides a quote from Charles Spurgeon that seems very applicable in your case.

    If our mild milk-and-water Protestants could see Popery with their own eyes, they might have less to say against [Protestant] bigotry; and if those who play at ornate worship could see whither their symbolism tends, they would start back aghast, and adhere henceforth to the severest simplicity.

    I don’t understand how you can see people performing a supposedly good, religious deed in exchange for forgiveness from God as wicked and blasphemous. It would indicate you don’t have a very good understanding of the true gospel.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  6. I certainly have my qualms with the doctrine of purgatory…I furthermore doubt these stairs are the ones leading to the original praetorium. However I do not believe kneeling and praying at these steps is particularly idolatrous. They are not worshipping the steps themselves.

    Josh,

    You may not realize it, but your comments contradict one another. On the one hand you say you have “qualms” with the doctrine of Purgatory (One should have more than “qualms”; it is an outright, unbiblical heresy foisted on the world in 600 AD by Pope Gregory), yet you don’t have a problem with people climbing these stairs on their knees. (For the record–Neither I nor any of my DefCon brethren would say that visiting the Holy Land is of any particular worth).

    Yet I believe that if you understood why these people are performing such a ritual, you would see the problem. The reason for this practice is these people believe that by scaling these steps they can gain a pitiful “indulgence” in order to shorten their stay in Purgatory. Thus, these people are seeking to merit some measure of mercy form God by their works. The practice of climbing the “Scala Sancta”–as well as the blasphemous worship of statues, trinkets, and dead men’s bones–are all geared toward shortening one’s stay in Purgatory. I think you can see now why we abhor such practices, and refer to them by their rightful title–“idolatry”.

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