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Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

The Basilica of Saint Mary Major (, In it the miracle is witnessed by a crowd of holy men and women and observed from above by Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of Our Lady of the Snows, local Roman Catholics commemorate the miracle on each anniversary by dropping white rose petals from the dome during the feast mass.


The precise location of that first church has been lost. The present building dates from the time of Pope Sixtus III (432 - 440) and contains many ancient mosaics from this period. Its form so exactly follows the conventions of an imperial basilica it has at times been taken for one. The campanile, tallest in Rome, was constructed in the fourteenth century. The basilica's 16th-century coffered ceiling, to a design by Giuliano da Sangallo, is said to be gilded with Inca gold presented by Ferdinand and Isabella to the Spanish pope Alexander VI (something which factually is erroneous, since the Inca empire was conquered during the reign of Charles V). The medieval bell tower is the highest in Rome, at 240 feet, (about 75 m.). The apse mosaic, the Coronation of the Virgin, is from 1295, signed by the Franciscan friar, Jacopo Torriti. The Basilica also contains frescoes by Giovanni Baglione, in the Cappella Borghese.

The 12th-century façade has been masked by a reconstruction, with a screening loggia, that were added by Pope Benedict XIV in 1743, to designs by Ferdinando Fuga that did not damage the mosaics of the façade. The wing of the canonica (sacristy to its left and a matching wing to the right (designed by Flaminio Ponzio) give the basilica's front the aspect of a palace facing Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore. To the right of the Basilica's façade is a memorial representing a column in the form of an up-ended cannon barrel topped with a cross: it was erected by Pope Clement VIII immediately after the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of Protestants, though today it is reputed to celebrate the end of the French Wars of Religion http://members.tripod.com/romeartlover/Vasi48.html.

The Marian column erected in 1614, to designs of Carlo Maderno is the model for numerous Marian columns erected in Catholic countries in thanksgiving for remission of the plague during the Baroque era. (An example is the Holy Trinity Column in Olomouc, the Czech Republic). The column itself is the sole remaining from Constantine's Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine in Campo Vaccino, as the Roman Forum was called until the 18th centuryhttp://members.tripod.com/romeartlover/Vasi48.html; Maderno's fountain at the base combines the armorial eagles and dragons of Paul V.


In the centuries that have passed, the weather has been Santa Maria Maggiore's biggest rival. The pollution of a modern city combined with humidity puts at risk the old churches and the artwork they hold. Centuries before the first vehicle spewed exhaust into the city, during the late sixteenth century, a number of the Vatican's churches were renovated and redecorated. The basilica itself was restored and extended by various popes, including Eugene III (1145-1153), Nicholas IV (1288-92), Clement X (1670-76), and Benedict XIV (1740-58), who in the 1740s commissioned Ferdinando Fuga to build the present façade and to modify the interior. The interior of the Santa Maria Maggiore underwent a broad renovation encompassing all of its altars between the years 1575 and 1630.


=== List of major works of art in the basilica ===
  • Early Christian mosaic cycle depicting Old Testament events, 5th century
    The decoration of the Sistine chapel of Santa Maria Maggiore, which should not be confused with the more famous Sistine chapel of the Vatican, was commissioned by the administration of Pope Sixtus V. The architect Domenico Fontana was called to design the chapel to house the presumptive relics of the Nativity crib. The original Nativity Oratory, with the presepe built in the XIII century by Arnolfo di Cambio, is below the chapel. The chapel contains the tombs of Sixtus V and his early patron Pius V (design by Fontana and statue by Leonardo Sarzana). The statue of Sixtus V was sculpted by Giovanni Antonio Paracca, called il Valsoldo. The main altar in the Chapel has four gilded bronze angels by Sebastiano Torregiani, along the ciborium.

    The Mannerist interior decoration was completed (1587-9) by a large team of artists, directed by Cesare Nebbia and Giovanni Guerra. While the art biographer, Giovanni Baglione allocates specific works to individual artists, recent scholarship finds that the hand of Nebbia drew preliminary sketches for many, if not all, of the frescoes. Baglione also concedes the roles of Nebbia and Guerra could be summarized as "Nebbia drew, and Guerra supervised the teams".
    Painter Work - valign=“top” Giovanni Battista Pozzo Angelic Glory, Visitation, Annunciation, Joseph’s dream, St. Paul & John Evangelist, St. Peter enters Rome,& Massacre of infants - valign=“top” Lattanzio Mainardi Tamar, Fares, Zara, Solomon, & Boaz - valign=“top” Hendrick van den Broeck (Arrigo Fiammingo) Esrom, Aram, Aminabad & Naassom - valign=“top” Paris Nogari Ruth, Jesse, David, Solomon & Roboam; & the Holy Family - valign=“top” Giacomo Stella Jehoshaphat & Jehoram, Jacob, Judah & his brothers, Sacrifice of Isacc - valign=“top” Angiolo Nebbia Ozias & Jonathan, Abiud and Eliacim, Manassah and Amon, Josiah and Jechonia, Salatiele & Zorobabel - valign=“top” Salvatore Fontana Jacob, Eli, Eliezer and Nathan, Herod orders massacre of the innocents, Annunciation - valign=“top” Cesare Nebbia Chaziel & Ezekias, Sadoch, Achim, Amoz - valign=“top” Ercole from Bologna ''Flight from Egypt" and "Mary visits Elisabeth's house'' - valign=“top” Andrea Lilio Magi before Herod - valign=“top”

    Others include Ferdinando Sermei, Giacomo Stella, Paul Bril, and Ferraù Fenzoni.


    The Salus Populi Romani has been a favorite of several Popes and acted as a key Mariological symbol. Roman born Pope Pius XII (Eugenio Pacelli) celebrated his first Holy Mass there on April 1, 1899. In 1953, the icon was carried through Rome to initiate the first Marian year in Church history. In 1954, the icon was crowned by Pope Pius XII as he introduced a new Marian feast Queenship of Mary. Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI all honoroured the Salus Populi Romani with personal visits and liturgical celebrations.

    Papal basilica

    As papal basilica, Santa Maria Maggiore is often personally used by the pope. Most notably, the pope presides over the annual Feast of the Assumption of Mary, celebrated each August 15 at the basilica. The canopied high altar is used by the pope alone — except for a choice few priests including the archpriest. The pope gives charge of Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore to an archpriest, usually an archbishop made cardinal in consistory. The archpriest was formerly the titular Latin Patriarch of Antioch, a title abolished in 1964.

    The current archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is Cardinal Bernard Francis Law; John Paul II assigned Law to this position after his resignation as Archbishop of Boston on December 13, 2002, in an act that elicited much criticism, given the fact that Law was arguably one of the most controversial Church officials in the United States. It was in his archdiocese that the 2002 scandal initially erupted.

    In addition to the archpriest and his servant priests, a chapter of canons are resident in Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. In addition,Redemptorist and Dominican priests serve the church daily — hearing confessions and administering othersacraments.

    Archpriests of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore since 1130

    List of archpriests of the Liberian Basilica since 1130. Initially probably not all archpriests were cardinals

  • Rainiero (attested 1130)
  • Guido Ascanio Sforza (1543-1564)


    External links

  • A look at the restoration


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