Saturday, February 17, 2007

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore...

The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore — also known as the Basilica di Santa Maria della Neve and Basilica Liberiana in the Italian language and Saint Mary Major Basilica or the Liberian Basilica in the English language — is an ancient Catholic basilica of Rome. It is one of the four major basilicas, and one of the five Patriarchal basilicas associated with the Pentarchy: St. John Lateran, St. Lawrence outside the Walls, St. Peter and St. Paul outside the Walls, and Santa Maria Maggiore. The Liberian Basilica is one of the tituli, presided over by a patron—in this case Pope Liberius—that housed the major congregations of early Christians in Rome. Built over the pagan temple of Cybele, Santa Maria Maggiore is the only Roman basilica that retained the core of its original structure, left intact despite several additional construction projects and damage from the earthquake of 1348.

The name of the church reflects two ideas of greatness, both that of a major basilica as opposed to a minor basilica and also that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the true Mother of God. In the Greek language this doctrine is called Theotokos, officially adopted at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is the largest and most important place of prayer dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

After the Avignon papacy formally ended and the Papacy returned to Rome, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore became a temporary Palace of the Popes due to the deteriorated state of the Lateran Palace. The papal residence was later moved to the Palace of the Vatican in present-day Vatican City.

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