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The miracle of St. Marie Major in Rome

Here we are in Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore, in front of one of the largest and most beautiful basilicas in Rome. It ‘a real jewel majestic and full of art and history … but even more hidden among its several things that can affect our minds and curious now “trained” to Legendary Rome. What we are discussing today is one of the many curiosities of the church, that is the legend of its foundation.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, in the fourth century, rebuilt in the thirteenth, is known by this name because it is the largest church in the world dedicated to the Marian cult.

But it is also known as a traditional name, not known to most people, that is, “Santa Maria ad Nives” (ie, Santa Maria della Neve). That’s why.

It ‘s the night of 4 August 352 BC, and it is said that Pope Liberius had a dream rather extravagant appears to Mary, who tells him that the next morning would be absolutely unusual event happened, where it happened, there would had to build a church dedicated to her. Legend has it that the same strange dream the same night, they did a rich Roman patrician named John, and his wife. This elderly couple had already decided to donate their substantial assets in order to build a temple to Mary, but had not yet decided or where nor how.

The next day, August 5 of 352, then in the height of summer, all Romans were astonished: they found the Esquiline hill completely covered with snow!

The Roman patrician and his wife, along with Pope Liberius, met moved on the hill in front of the prodigy, and confided his dream the night before. It was obvious that it was the miracle of the summer snowfall sign that Our Lady had left … and also, as a symbol of purity and whiteness of the snow better? Then began to draw, right on the snow, what was the original plan of the basilica.

The legend is described in a beautiful painting Masolino da Panicale in which, for the odd shape of the clouds, and the idea of something “like snow” that fell, was one of the paintings that aroused a some interest among ufologists.

Returning to the basilica, this legend is shown just below the apse, in a beautiful bas-relief (see photo at right). Beware that you will have to ask permission from the zealous guards if the transition to the apse is inhibited by the barriers (you can imagine what instead “nimbly” I did, sorting out a sound scolding!).

Spreading this legend, it began to spread the cult of the “Madonna of the Snow.” Today, the “Madonna of the Snow” is in fact the patron saint of Ascoli Piceno, Nuoro, Torre Annunziata … and dozens of other locations. So now we know that even if it is venerated in many places all over Italy, his cult has its roots in this basilica.

If you visit the basilica and its August 5, you can watch the “cascade of rose petals” from the dome of Saint Paul, a very impressive ritual that is used just to remember the miracle of snow falling. This way you can tell their friends, at least symbolically, seeing you also snowing in Rome on August 5th!