The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is still used today. Its history reaches back to more than one and a half millennium. This church was built on one of the seven hills of Rome around 400 AD. If you find Italy too hot for a visit in the summer months, you can plan a city trip to Rome in the late fall. If you then search for weather Rome on the internet you get an idea of the average temperatures that prevail in certain months.
The role of Basilicas in the Catholic Church
This monument is of immense importance for Catholics and therefore has the designation Basilica Major. The Basilicas Majores, who are all in Rome, together with the more than 1500 Basilicas Minores tell about the Catholic history of the last two millennia. The Basilicas majores are:
- Saint John of Laterans
- Santa Maria Maggiore
- Saint Paul outside the Walls
- Saint Peter.
A Catholic monument is designated Basilica Minor if it has played an eminent role in church history. The Vatican grants this honorary title. In our country there are around twenty Basilicas Minores.
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore: a long history
The monument is still in use. This building stands on the Esquilino (called Esquilino by the Romans). This is one of the seven hills on which Rome is built. Esquilino is another term for living outside the city. Furthermore, the Dutch translation of the Basilica de Maria Maggiore is: the Basilica of Mary the Great.
Why was this church built?
Already in 431 there was a discussion about whether Mary was only the carnal mother or whether the Mary figure played a more figurative role in the traditions. In the city of Ephesus, the practice of worshiping a mother goddess was strongly rooted. To make a link with the church that was built in Ephesus during this meeting (also called council), the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore was built by the pope in Rome. After the council, the Syrian church continued independently. She separated from Rome and has since had her own patriarch.
The worship of the mother goddess in Ephesus
The Roman church tried to make the Ephesians forget their own mother goddess. This by promoting the worship of the Virgin Mary. Many even believe that the natural mother of Jesus is buried in Ephesus. There is even a religious attraction: "Meryemana" or "The House of the Blessed Virgin Mary". As in many ancient Eastern places, this place is considered sacred by Christian and Muslim believers.
The Roman conversion to Christianity
Around 400 AD, most of the Roman Empire had moved to Christianity. At that time there were also many Romans who spent their money on the church. A certain John and his wife dreamed in the middle of the summer that a new church dedicated to Mary had to rise on a hill of Rome. The suitable place could be recognized by snow. The devout John consulted the ruling pope, Liberius. He stated to have had a similar experience. Together they went looking for the special sign.
The current basilica
The existing church dates from the time of Pope Sixtus the third. Worth seeing are the mosaics, which are considered to be the most ancient, unique examples of that time. In addition, over 70 meters high bell tower was added to this building in the 14th century. The beautiful gold-decorated cassette ceiling contains gold that was brought in by Columbus from the new world. Another attraction is the icon, made by Lucas (the Evangelist). The legend is that this piece of art (made around 100 AD) protected Rome against the plague. In addition, this is the resting place of a number of famous Catholics. Pope Clement VIII is also buried here.