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.
History 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 — the work of the 12th
century Kosmatov — 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
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.
Capella 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.
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.
Organ 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.