Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica Santa Maria Major is one of the four Papal basilicas in the city of Rome and therefore one of the main stops for pilgrims that flock to the city. Apart from its beauty, it holds some of the oldest mosaics that date back to the 5th century. 

Its full name in Italian is “Basilica di Santa Maria Maggirre” which translates to Basilica of Saint Mary Major. This major term comes from the fact that this is one of the four major basilicas in the city. The term represents the highest ranked Catholic Churches.

The basilica was constructed between 432 and 440 by the wish of Pope Sisto III and it is dedicated to the cult of Mary. It was built instead of another church and according to the legend Marry herself chose the location. Mary appeared in a dream of Papa Liberio (Liberius) and suggested that the right location for the church would be chosen by a miracle. Thus on 5th August (the peak of the summer period in Rome) an unusual storm hit Rome and covered the top of the hill called Esquiline with snow. When Pope realized what happened he himself marked the foundations for the church in the snow. The first reports of this miracle appeared only a few centuries after it supposedly happened therefore it is left to you to decide whether to believe it or not. Nevertheless, this legend is commemorated every year on 5th August by dropping white rose petals from basilica’s dome.
This basilica is one of four papal basilicas in the city. No matter which religion you hold dearest, it is without doubt an extremely beautiful and richly decorated church.
The basilica is the only one where the parts of the original building are visible today. It is also renowned for its 5th century mosaics, which are some of the oldest mosaics in the Christian world depicting Mary as the mother of God.

Ticket prices for Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome
Entrance to the church is FREE of charge.
Entrance to the museum is: 4 Euros (€).
Entrance to the Bernini and Papal rooms costs: 6 Euros (€).
Visit to the underground chambers costs: 8 Euros (€).

Working hours of the Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome
From Monday to Sunday working hours are: 7:00-18:45h.

Interesting facts

  • According to the Treaty from 1929, the basilica is located in the Italian territory and therefore not in the territory of the Holy Seat. However, this treaty specifies that the Holy Seat owns this basilica and that Italy is obliged to recognize its full ownership and to grant immunity to the building, similar to those granted to the Embassies of foreign countries.
  • In this basilica there is a chapel called The Sistine Chapel, named after Pope Sixtus V. This chapel should not be confused with the more famous Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City, named after Pope Sixtus IV.

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