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Exploring Basilicas And Churches In Rome

2934 words - 12 pages

Exploring Basilicas and Churches in Rome

Rome is the home of one of the largest cathedrals in the world, St. Peter's; however, it is also the home of many other beautiful churches and basilicas. Some of these include basilicas such as: Santa Maria Maggiore, St. Giovanni in Lateran, and St. Peter in Chains and churches like St. Peter Outside the Walls and San Giuseppe del Falegnami/ Mamertine Prison. These churches and basilicas through their history, art, architecture, and relics or tombs of saints create a rich and intriguing history of ancient Rome.

Santa Maria Maggiore


Santa Maria Maggiore was created in 350 AD by Pope Liberius and was constructed because of two miraculous and unusual events. First, legend holds that Pope Liberius had a dream that Mary the mother of Jesus came to him and told him to build her church wherever snow fell the next day. The next day it snowed on the spot of the current basilica. Also, each year on August 5, the supposed day of the snowfall, it is remembered with a festal Mass and rose petals being thrown on the site. This legend is called the Legend of the Snow, and forms another common name for the basilica, Santa Maria della Neve (Our Lady of the Snow) (Virtual Tour- Santa Maria Maggiore 1). Also, the basilica was built under the patronage and financial support of a Roman couple that also dreamt that the Lady Mary asked them to build her church. Since the couple could not have children, they left all their fortune to Mary and built Santa Maria Maggiore. Other names for the basilica include: Basilica Liberiana (which was named after Pope Liberius) and Santa Maria ad Praesepem (after the relics it holds including some of the wood from Jesus' cradle) (Santa Maria Maggiore Rome, Italy 1). It was rebuilt many times including in 432 after the Council of Ephesus when Pope Sixtus III commissioned for it to be restored. It is in the site of ancient gardens and is located on top of Esquiline Hill (Nyborg 1).


St. Mary Major is dedicated to Mary and is known for its' beautiful architecture and art or mosaics. It has the highest bell-tower in Rome, which is 75 meters tall and in the Romanesque style. The basilica's architecture includes different styles ranging from early Christian to later periods such as Baroque. The structure contains three naves supported by the original Athenian marble columns (Wild 403). It also boasts of such artists as Ferdinando Fuga, who designed the front faûze and other parts of the basilica including the Chapel of the Holy Relics in 1750; Filippo Rusuti, who designed the mosaics behind the faûze; and Michelangelo, who designed the Sforza Chapel. It contains many beautiful mosaics, which depict different scenes such as the legend of the snowfall (above the altar and on the bottom of the facade) and the icon of the Virgin Mary, which is located in the Pauline Chapel. According to legend, the apostle Luke sculpted it (however, there...

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