Dedication of Saint Mary Major

August 5th is the day set aside for the optional memorial of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major. There are four major churches, or basilicas that we honor but I never understood why. I am guessing you don’t know why either, so I decided to do a little research.


It turns out that there is a lot of information about this gorgeous Basilica. It is one of the oldest and largest churches, and was built at the request of Pope Liberius. It has been restored many times over the years while maintaining the integrity of its original structure.

The Vatican website describes the church:

The Patriarchal Basilica of St. Mary Major reigns as an authentic jewel in the crown of Roman churches. Its beautiful treasures are of inestimable value, and represent the Church’s role as the cradle of Christian artistic civilization in Rome. For nearly sixteen centuries, St. Mary Major has held its position as a Marian shrine par excellence and has been a magnet for pilgrims from all over the world who have come to the Eternal City to experience the beauty, grandeur and holiness of the basilica.

But why is it signficant?

It is significant because it is one of the four great churches in Rome, which is the center of Christianity. As such, it contains the papal throne and altar; however, no clergymen are allowed to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist there without the Pope’s express permission.

The Basilica also has a miracle attributed to the place. Apparently, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to a man named Giovanni, telling him that she wished that a church be built in her honor. Around the same time, she appeared to Pope Liberius with the same request, telling him that she will send down snow in the place where the church was to be built. Lo and behold, snow started to fall the next day, August 5th on the hill in Rome where the church as to be raised.  This is where Our Lady gets her title, “Our Lady of Snows.”

The history and the miraculous story is very interesting and I encourage you to check out the links below for further details behind this gorgeous basilica.

Vatican Website

New Advent

The Catholic Travel Guide

American Catholic



Picture is in public domain