Rome, Italy

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore — otherwise known as the church of Santa Maria Maggiore — is the largest Marian Catholic Church in the city of Rome. The architectural masterpiece of the Basilica was designed in a Baroque architectural style by Architect Ferdinando Fuga.

The church of Santa Maria Maggiore is a patriarchal Roman basilica. It is a fifth-century church that is located on the exact point where snow mystically fell in 358 AD summer on the apex of the Esquiline Hill.

The name of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore has changed several times. It was initially called St. Mary of the Snow after of the great snow; subsequently it was renamed Santa Maria Liberiana after a pope; at some point it was called the St. Mary of the Crib after the basilica obtained a Holy Crib relic. The basilica was finally given its current name because it is the largest of the Virgin Mary dedicated churches that numbers 26 in the city of Rome.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is one of Rome’s five greatest historical basilicas. The 18th century exterior of the basilica makes it one of the best preserved basilica exteriors in Rome. The exterior of the building is astonishingly decorated with 13th century glimmering mosaics that is protected by the 18th century baroque loggia of Ferdinand Fuga. The interiors of the basilica maintain its fifth-century Roman standard which is a wide, tall nave with round apse at the end and side aisles. Despite the various overhauls of the Basilica, the interiors still maintain its original and unique structures. The fifth-century mosaics are spectacular in the nave and triumphal arch. They depict scenes of the old testaments. The native floor of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is made up of the 12th century Cosmati paving.

The apse’s central image depicts the Virgin Mary”s coronation and it dates back to the 13th century. The Alter of the basilica is gorgeous. It is a porphyry sarcophagus that is believed to house the relics of the martyrs and St. Matthew. The exact spot that Pietro and Lorenzo Bernini were buried was marked by a plaque just by the right side of The Alter. There are steps that go down to the crypt for laying relics. You will see the statue of Pope Pius IX as he kneels to adore a fragment of Jesus manger contained in a reliquary. The upper loggia of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore offers interesting sight and experience of the spiral staircase of Bernini and the iridescent 13th century mosaics of the facade.

Visitors of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore can get great collections of religious artefacts at the souvenir shop of the church. The souvenir shop is also a museum and it is located on the church’s right-hand side.

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