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Point of interests in Rome

TitleSanta Maria Maggiore
Address00185 Lazio Roma Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore Piazza
TimeIV-XVIII sec.
DescriptionThe basilica was constructed by Sisto III (432-440) after the Council of Ephesus in 431, in which the dogma of the divine maternity of Mary was established, as opposed to Nestorian heresy. The building was erected on a previous basilica dedicated to the Virgin, erected by Pope Liberio (352-366) on the site of a miraculous snowfall that took place on August 5th, 356, from which the basilica also took the name of Santa Maria ad Nives (the miraculous event is remembered every year, on August 5th, with a ceremony during which petals of roses are released from the ceiling of the church). As verified by the archeological excavations, the basilica was constructed on a private complex of the Imperial era (II-III centuries A.D.) in which the remains are preserved of a calendar painted in the late IV century with depictions of agricultural work. The exterior façade, decorated with a mosaic by Filippo Rusuti at the end of the XIII century (Christ Blessing with symbols of the evangelists, the Virgin and episodes of the legend of Pope Liberio), is preceded by an architraved portico surmounted by a three-arched loggia, constructed by Ferdinando Fuga in 1743.. The interior partly preserves the original plan of the V century. Indeed, dating from this period was the division into three naves by means of two rows of columns with Ionic capitals and the rich decoration of mosaic panels above the trabeation (the stories of Moses and Joshua: the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). The mosaic decoration of the triumphal arch (Stories of Jesus and the Apocryphal Gospels) also dates from this era. The apse, reconstructed by Niccolò IV (1288-92), was decorated with a mosaic by Jacopo Torriti in 1295 (Coronation of Mary in the presence of Niccolò IV and Cardinal Giacomo Colonna accompanied by Saints). In the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the chapels at the sides of the naves were opened. Among these were the Sforza Chapel, erected in 1573 to a design by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel, constructed by Domenico Fontana in 1587 commissioned by Sisto V (Felice Peretti, 1585-90), and the Paoline Chapel, constructed in 1611 for Paolo V (Camillo Borghese, 1605-21). The monumental rear prospect on the Piazza dell’Esquilino was constructed in 1675 by Carlo Rainaldi.The basilica was part of the pilgrimage to the seven churches of the city.


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