Apartments in Rome

The Basilica of St. Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore)

Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore exterior
Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore interior
The exterior
The interior

One of the first basilicas in Rome (4th century AD), and dedicated to Our Lady in the place where, according to tradition, it snowed in August, it is probably the most beautiful basilica in town, elegant and sophisticated despite its nearly sober design. The features comprise a simple yet dynamic layout with three naves divided by two essential yet stylish Ionian columns, a wonderful Cosmati marble pavement, beautiful side chapels, and an amazing ceiling, made with the first gold collected in the Americas.

Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore coffered ceiling

The amazing coffered ceiling


St. Mary Major Mary and Jesus mosaic in the apse

The mosaic in the apse

The wonderful mosaic in the apse shows Jesus and Mary, while the apostles, normally in the foreground, are only shown in the background. Many popes are buried in the basilica (especially in the two side chapels Pauline and Sixtine). The architect and sculptor G. L. Bernini is buried in the church.

The Pope visits the basilica every year on the 5th of August (anniversary of the day in which it snowed) and on the 8th of December (Immaculate Conception).

Rome Saint Mary Major Pauline Chapel
Pauline chapel
Rome Saint Mary Major Gian Lorenzo Bernini grave
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's grave

 

Before the main altar of the church you find the Confession, or reliquary crypt. Both the stairs leading to it and the crypt itself are panelled with rare and magnificent varieties of red Eastern marbles.

The crypt includes the statue of Pope Pius IX (by Ignazio Jacometti) and also a sacred relic of the Holy Crib. The crystal reliquary contains pieces of ancient wood which tradition holds to be part of the manger where Baby Jesus was laid, brought by the pilgrims from the Holy Land.

(Right): statue of Pius IX

 

Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore Statue of Pius IX

Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore Immaculate Conception ceremony
8th December:Immaculate Conception, the ceremony
Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore Immaculate Conception procession
8th December: Immaculate Conception, procession

On December 8th, a very important ceremony is held in the Immaculate Conception recurrence.

 

Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore Knights of Holy Sepulchre
Immaculate Conception: the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre

 

Normally the Pope attends the ceremony.

Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore Knight of Gregorius Magnus
Immaculate Conception: a Knight of Gregorius Magnus
St. Mary Major Our lady honoured

Together with normal people, in the first rows one can find distinguished faithfuls: knights of the Holy Sepulchre, knights of Gregorius Magnus, ambassadors to the Holy See etc. The ceremony is not only impressive, but also quite inspiring, and - whether you are a faithful or not - quite touching. The music, the choir are excellent, and they all contribute to the atmosphere.

There is also a duty guard in uniform honouring St. Mary, at the entrance of the church and also in the baptistry, as shown in the left photo.

Also outside the church you find kaleidoscopic flocks of people. Ordinary people, priests, notables of townhall, upper-class people in their most elegant robes, poor people and also beggars hoping to have their share of attention in the holy day.

Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore Spanish Ambassador to the Holy See
Outside the church, after the Immaculate Conception ceremony: the VIP notables and the Spanish Embassador to the Holy See, whom everyone greets - he is considered the most important diplomat in Rome because the Spanish Embassy to the Holy See was the first to set foot in Rome
Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore beggar
The blind beggar next to them, whom nobody sees, and about whom nobody cares

Back to the "Monti quarter presentation"

Rome Saint Mary Major Church Santa Maria Maggiore

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