Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of Saint Mary Major) is one of the 4 Papal major basilicas, built in the 5th century atop Esquiline Hill to honor Virgin Mary

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Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of Saint Mary Major) is one of the 4 Papal major basilicas, built in the 5th century atop Esquiline Hill to honor Virgin Mary.

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica of Saint Mary Major) is one of the 4 Papal major basilicas, built in the 5th century atop Esquiline Hill to honor Virgin Mary. The original layout remains, but the building has been reworked over the ages and the current structure majorly dates back to the 17th - 18th century. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Properties of the Holy See in the Historic Centre of Rome.

As you approach the basilica from Via Cavour leading to the Piazza dell’Esquilino, you can get a good view of the exterior of the apse with the octagonal lead domes of the Sistina and Paolina chapels on either side outlined against the sky. In the square stands the 46-feet high Colonna della Pace, relocated from the Basilica di Massenzio. Dedicated to Virgin Mary, the column and the small fountain in front of it are adorned with the papal eagles and dragons.

The interiors are typical for an Early Christian church, with a spacious nave lined by marble columns leading to a round apse which has a 13th century mosaic depicting the Coronation of the Virgin. Mosaics from the 5th century along the nave illustrate scenes from the Old Testament, and those of the Triumphal Arch show scenes from the early life of Christ. Below the high altar of the basilica is the Crypt of the Nativity or Bethlehem Crypt which has a crystal reliquary that is believed to contain wood from the Holy Crib of the nativity of Jesus Christ. There is also a museum on the premises. If you are in Rome on Corpus Christi (Corpus Domini), which is the Thursday following the 8th Sunday after Easter, an early-evening service is held in San Giovanni by the Pope followed by a procession along Via Merulana to Santa Maria Maggiore. It offers a good opportunity for a close up view of the Pope.

A beautiful church with gilded coffered ceiling, Cosmatesque floor, and stunning mosaics, the Basilica is a highlight of any trip to Rome.


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About Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

 Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, 42, 00100 Roma, Italy

 +39 06 6988 6800

 www.vatican.va

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and Nearby Sights on Map

Santa Prassede

Fantastic Byzantine mosaics and some other interesting artwork

Santa Pudenziana

A very ancient church named after a saint who was in 1969 removed from the Roman Catholic calendar of saints for the lack of details of her life

National Museum of Musical Instruments

Next door to Santa Croce

Roma dal Cielo Terrazza delle Quadrighe

Palazzo Altemps

Simple and elegant lines make up this building, whose construction began in 1480 for Count Girolamo Riario, nephew of Papa Sisto IV and was taken up by architect Martino Longhi for the new owner, Cardinal Marco Sittico Altemps

Baths of Diocletian

On the site of the Roman baths, this museum houses an enormous collection of statues

Museo Nazionale Romano

St Paul's Within the Walls

More modern than most Roman churches: it was not started until 1873

Colle Oppio

This is the attractive park on the hillside directly west of the Colosseum

Catacombs of Rome

Hidden underneath Rome's vibrant cityscape are miles of subterranean tunnels and chambers that were ancient underground burial places for people of all Roman religions