Santa Maria Maggiore harmonizes a great variety of architectural styles: the naves date from the 15th Century, the bell-tower ... More
Santa Maria Maggiore
Santa Maria Maggiore harmonizes a great variety of architectural styles: the naves date from the 15th Century, the bell-tower is medieval, the ceiling is from the Renaissance and the domes are Baroque. Here, one might say, the entire history of ecclesiastical architecture is united under one roof. The Cappella Sforza is by Michelangelo. The finest fresco painters of the age took turns decorating the walls of this imposing edifice and it is said that the magnificent ceiling was gilded with the first gold brought back from America by Christopher Columbus. Certain details of the basilica have been destroyed over the years, notably the mosaics that used to decorate the apse, which dates from 1200. The bell-tower was rebuilt in the 14th Century to the original design after being destroyed in an earthquake. Popes Sixtus V and Paul V are buried here.
I had the luck of my hotel being nearby St. Mary's when I was in Rome, so this was my first stop when exploring the city and what a stop it was! This basillica rivals St. Peters and is full of beautiful artwork and sculptures! I highly recommend you see this Basillica while in Rome. One thing to remember that it's still a functioning church (as most churches in Rome still are), so there are areas where photography is forbidden. Legend says the gold inlayed into the ceiling was brought back from the New World by Columbus. Make sure you get here when you visit Rome!
Upon entering the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore visitors will ultimately leave Italy behind and enter into the Vatican. Considered one of Rome�s four major basilicas, this fifth century church (dedicated to Mother Mary) is actually a Vatican possession. The church was built around 432 AD in response to a vision had by Pope Liberius. He dreamt that the Virgin told him to build a church where he would find snow. The next morning on the fifth of August 432, in the middle of a roasting summer, a small patch of snow was discovered on the Esquiline Hill. Naturally, the Pope did as he was told and the rest is history. Each year since its completion, the basilica has seen the commemoration of this miracle with a special mass. During this service, thousands of white dahlia petals representing snow are sprinkled from the ceiling.
From its majestic Romanesque bell tower to its twin domes built in the Baroque period, Santa Maria Maggiore is host to a wealth of different architectural styles. Among its most striking features is the Renaissance ceiling, a gift of the Spanish monarchy, gilded with the first gold Columbus brought back from the New World. Another stunning asset is the baldacchino crafted sometime in the mid-1700s. With its rich, red columns and delicate bronze ornamentation, Ferdinando Fuga�s masterpiece seems a heavenly place to celebrate mass. The most magnificent and famous treasures in all this church, however, are found looming above in the nave. Santa Maria Maggiore houses some of the world�s oldest, most beautiful and best preserved early Christian mosaics. Bright, colorful and realistic, these fifth century mosaics were about 1,000 years ahead of their time. Just one look proves that they alone are worth a visit here.
The basilica has a lovely gift shop on site that carries a nice assortment of religious and Roman souvenirs. Anything from colorful magnets and hand painted ceramics to rosary beads and landmark figurines can be found here. Prices average about two dollars less than what vendors charge on the street. The church is open from 7am to 8pm daily. No admission fee is charged, but donations are appreciated.
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