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The basilica---usually translated into English as "Mary Major" is one of the four Papal Basilicas of Rome.  A Christian church was first built here in 352 AD over the foundations of a pagan temple.  The present form was built around 420 AD.  A legend is attached that Pope Liberius was instructed by God to build a church on the site where it would snow in Rome.  Snow isn't real common in the city.  The following August it DID snow on the Esquiline Hill and there the basilica was erected.



The front view of the  basilica from the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore.  This is the premier basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary.





We took a hike here from San Pietro in Vincoli.  I just had to sneak these pictures of the walk in.  We started off down this thoroughfare.




Then we took a left and descended these stairs and continued through the alleyway.  Luckily I didn't forget and leave anything at the top of the stairs and have to go back for it.




That brought us out somewhere fairly close to Via Cavour, one of the main streets of Rome.  We followed that down for a ways.




That brought us to the basilica.  We wondered why it was so deserted until we realized we were in Piazza dell'Esquilino and were looking at the back of the church.




Around to Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore and we're in front.




The 14th century campanile is the tallest in Rome at 240 feet




The ceiling in the nave is coated with gold reportedly donated to the basilica by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain.  The gold supposedly came from the New World and was brought back by Columbus on one of his voyages.




The baptistery. Lighting in Rome's basilicas is almost totally sunlight pouring in the windows.  While we were in this basilica, a thunderstorm was raging outside.  I had to increase the apparent ISO on my camera.  As a result, the pictures took on a graininess.




One of the side chapels on the right aisle with a crucifix over the altar.




The confessio (down the steps) and the baldacchino above.




The confessio is very ornately finished.




A statue of Pope Pius IX in prayer while seeming to gaze at the reliquary .In a crypt below the confessio, St. Jerome's earthly remains are interred.




The reliquary in the confessio contains fragments of the crib in which Jesus was kept as an infant.




The apse.  The mosaic above the altar depicts the coronation of Mary.




The Ave Reginis Pacis statue.




Above the inside of the main doorway showing the sculpture, stained glass, and mosaics.




We had lunch with a view of the basilica and then left down Via Merulana.