Scala Santa (Ital. for holy stair), a celebrated staircase, consisting of twenty-eight white marble steps, in a little chapel of the Church of St. John Lateran at Rome. Romanists assert that this is the staircase which Christ several times ascended and descended when he appeared before Pilate, and that it was carried by angels from Jerusalem to Rome. Multitudes of pilgrims creep up the steps of the Scala Santa on their knees with roses in their hands, kissing each step as they ascend. On reaching the top, they repeat a prayer. The performance of this ceremony is regarded as being particularly meritorious, entitling the devout pilgrim to plenary indulgence. It was while thus ascending these holy stairs that Luther thought he heard the words "The just shall live by faith," and, mortified at the degradation to which his superstition had brought him, fled from the spot.
Certain churches in England had similar staircases, which enjoyed the privilege of affording composition for a visit to Rome — at Westminster Abbey, in 1504; St. Mary's Chapel, at Boston; St. Mary's Chapel in the Austin Canons' Church, Norwich; and at Windsor, with a college of ten priests, until 1504.