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Basilica of St Mary Major

Basilica of St Mary Major

According to a 13 th century legend, the first church was built by Pope Liberius (352-66) on the site of an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The legend has it that the Virgin appeared to Pope and the patrician Giovanni Patrizio on August 4, 352 (or 358) instructing them to build a church on the site that She would have indicated by an extraordinary event. Actually that night on the Esquiline Hill there was a miraculous snowfall. The numerous treasures contained in it render St. Mary Major a place where art and spirituality combine in a perfect union. The Pauline chapel is sumptuously decorated and houses the famous icon of the Virgin Mary known as Salus Populi Romani, “Health of the Roman People.” The Sistine Chapel, contains the elaborate tomb of Pope Sixtus V. Just outside the chapel, there is the tomb of Gian Lorenzo Bernini and his family. Beneath the high altar is a confessio with a kneeling statue of Pope Pius IX. The crypt is built to resemble the cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem and here there is a reliquary containing part of the Holy Crib, which was carried to Rome by Christian refugees during the Muslim conquest of the Holy Land in the 7 th century.

Where: Rome

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