Dedication of the Church of our Lady of the Snows in Rome

The Dedication of Saint Mary Major, previously known as Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Nives (Dedication of the Church of our Lady of the Snows), will come back in Rome on 5th August.


It is a liturgical feast commemorating the dedication of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, restored by Pope Sixtus III, just after the First Council of Ephesus.


This basilica, located on the top of the Esqueline Hill in Rome, is called the Basilica of Saint Mary Major because it’s the largest church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Rome.

In the past, this feast was known as Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Nives, a name that had become popular for the Basilica in the fourteenth century in connection with a legend about its origin.


The Legend

During the pontificate of Liberius, the Roman patrician John and his wife, without any heirs, made a vow to donate their properties to the Virgin Mary. It is said that Our Lady appeared to them in a dream on the night between Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th August 352 AD, informing them that a miracle would show them the place where they have to build the church.

Even the pope Liberius had the same dream and, on the following day, he went on the Esquiline Hill finding it totally covered with snow.

For this reason, they decided to build a basilica in honour of Virgin Mary.

This legend was removed by the Church because it seemed not to have real historical basis, until 1568, when Pope Pius V inserted this feast into the General Roman Calendar.

In 1741, a congregation set up by Pope Benedict XIV proposed to restore the legend about Virgin Mary of the snow.

In order to celebrate this special event, on 5th August of every year, you can marvel at a fantastic show: thousands petals of white flowers (and since 1982 also artificial snow) are dropped on the dome of the Borghese Chapel.


Fur further information about Santa Maria Maggiore and Rome, please visit our travel guide about Rome.



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