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Santa Maria Maggiore (Rome)

Santa Maria Maggiore (Rome)






Description of Church of Santa Maria Maggiore

Santa Maria Maggiore (Rome)

Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore
Tel. 06- 48 31 95
Bus: 16, 70, 71, 714
Subway: Termini, Cavour
Open: 7am- 7pm daily


The church of Santa Maria Maggiore was originally constructed here in 356 by pope Liberius. Legend claims that he saw a Virgin in his dream who told him that snow will show him where to build a new church. On August 5th snow fell on Rome and the first place it covered was current location of the church. Hence to this day the Miracle of Snow is celebrated with thousands of white flowers and petals representing the August snow. Then it comes to architectural style Santa Maria Maggiore is truly a symbol of Rome. Old and new are so organically build into each other it is hard to distinguish which part belong to what period. Its colonnaded triple nave is that of the 5th century church that originally stood here. Additionally mosaics on triumphal arch and biblical scenes date to that time period. Bell Tower is a medieval. Renaissance gave church its beautiful ceiling and Baroque added its twin domes.




An interesting legend is connected with the foundation of this church. One summer night of 352, Pope Liberia and the rich Roman Giovanni Patrizio saw in a dream Madonna who ordered to build a church in the place where the snow would fall the next day. The next morning, August 5, 352, on Esquiline, where the basilica now stands, was covered snow. After that, they began to build a church.

It was replaced by a basilica, built in the 440s. Pope Sixtus III and consecrated to the Mother of God. Many popes, trying to make this highly revered Roman church even more beautiful, completed and decorated it. The bell tower, the highest in Rome (75 m), dates from the year 1377. The current facade with a portico and loggia was built in the 1740s. Ferdinando Fuga. In the loggia, on the wall, which is an old church facade, the mosaic decor of the beginning of the 14th century is preserved.

The interior of the church, in spite of the later alterations, gives an idea of ​​the huge early Christian basilica, distinguished by its perfect proportions, harmony and solemnity. Of particular interest are mosaics adorning the church. In the central nave are mosaics of the 5th century on scenes from the Old Testament, striking in their freshness, brilliance of colors and beauty. Plots of mosaics triumphal arch - the Annunciation, the birth of Christ and the worship of him. They were created in the V century, but probably later than the arches of the central nave - they are influenced by Byzantium. The mosaic of the apse, which depicts the Coronation of Mary, combines parts belonging to the 5th century with those created by Jacopo Torriti at the end of the 13th century, when, under the direction of Pope Nicholas IV, the apse was rebuilt. All figures are related to this time.

Attention is drawn to the wooden coffered ceiling, which is considered the work of Giuliano da Sangallo. According to tradition, gold from the first batch brought from the New World (from Peru) was used for gilding the ceiling, which Pope Alexander VI received as a gift from the Spanish royal house Ferdinand and Isabella. The floor β€” the work of the 12th century Kosmatov β€” was significantly modified by a restoration made in the 18th century. In the depths of the right nave is the tombstone of Cardinal Consalvo Rodriguez of the end of the XIII century.

In Santa Maria Maggiore, Slavic liturgical books were consecrated for the first time, and Slavic was declared liturgical language. In the basilica is a memorial plaque of St. Cyril and Methodius, two Byzantine saints who developed Cyrilic alphabet used in Russia, Mongolia, Bulgaria and many other Eastern European and Asian countries.

Of great interest are the three chapels.

The Sistine Chapel on the right is built on the instructions of Pope Sixt V Domenico Fontana. The chapel is crowned by a dome, it is distinguished by the richness of the decor. Sixt V and Pius V are buried here. Their tombstones are decorated with bas-reliefs. The statue of kneeling Sixtus V was made by sculptor Giovanni Parakka, nicknamed Valsoldo.

Passing from this chapel into the left nave, one can get into the Paolin chapel, also called the Borghese chapel, since it was built on the orders of Paul V, who came from the Borghese family. The plan of this chapel corresponds to the chapel of Sixt, but its decorative furniture is much more luxurious. Clement VIII and Paul V are buried in the chapel. In this chapel is the most venerated in Rome image of the Virgin Mary of Byzantine origin - Salus Populi Romani.

Located on the same side, but closer to the exit, the Sforza Chapel was built by Giacomo della Porta, possibly designed by Michelangelo.

The organ of the basilica is located at the two ends of the transept and belongs to the work of the Mascioni family. Created in 1955 by order of Pope Pius XII to replace the old organ, located above the right choir of the transept, built in 1716 by Cesare Catarinozzi and reconstructed in the XIX century. The old organ was not destroyed, but transferred to the parish church of Alforni, where it remains to this day.

Burial place
In the basilica are buried: Giovanni Bernini, Pius V, Clement VIII, Clement IX, Paul V, Sixt V, Polina Bonaparte.




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