Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica: Homage to the title of Mary, Mother of God

This Roman basilica houses the relic of the manger of the Baby Jesus and the beautiful icon of Mary “Salus populi romani”.

Newsroom (August 5, 2021, 2:14 PM, Gaudium Press) Among the Pontifical Basilicas located in Rome, that of Santa Maria Maggiore has something special, since it is the monument of Marian piety par excellence of the Eternal City, not to mention that it is the oldest Shrine in the West, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Mother of God. Its dedication is commemorated by the Universal Church on Thursday, August 5.

The Basilica is associated with the Blessed Virgin, as the temple was built centuries ago to commemorate Mary, Mother of God, a truth of faith proclaimed at the Council of Ephesus.

It is the third of the patriarchal temples built within Rome. At first, it was named the “Liberian Basilica“, since it was built in the mid 4th century, at the time of Pope Liberius. But some time later, in the year 434, it was restored by order of Pope Sixtus III, receiving the name “Saint Mary Major”, to remember the solemn proclamation of the Virgin Mary as “Mother of God” made at the Council of Ephesus in 431. With this new dignity, the basilica became the first Roman, as well as Western, temple consecrated to the Virgin Mary.

On the feast of the dedication of the temple, an extraordinary event is also evoked: the “Miracle of the Snow”. According to tradition, on the night of August 5, 358, when Rome was in the middle of summer, it unusually snowed on the Roman hill of Esquilino. It is also said that during this period the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to Pope Liberius, asking him to build a temple in her honor on the spot where it had snowed. This fact is remembered every year on August 5 with light shows and showers of white flowers that dress the Basilica.

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The Basilica is also known by the name of “Santa Maria ad praesepe”, because inside the Basilica are preserved the nativity tablets of the Baby Jesus.  Likewise, the temple safeguards the beautiful icon of Mary “Salus populi romani” which is in the Pauline chapel and is of great devotion to the pontiffs.

With information from Vatican Radio

Compiled by Sarah Gangl

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