5 August: Our Lady of the Snows

 

Church_of_Santa_Maria_Maggiore
Giovanni Paolo Pannini – 1744

 

The Dedication of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore (St Mary Major) is a feast day celebrated annually on 5 August.

In earlier editions of the General Roman Calendar it was called the Dedication of the Basilica of St Mary of the Snows a reference to the legendary story about the foundation of the basilica, removed in the 1969 revision of the  Calendar.

According to that legend, in the IV century, a Roman patrician and his wife, who had no children, thought of donating their possessions to the Church. They prayed the Virgin Mary to let them know how to dispose of their property. The night between  4 and 5 August  358, the Virgin Mary appeared in their dreams to both the patrician and the Pope and asked them to dedicate a Basilica on the place where snow would fall that night. The next morning  people noticed that the summit of Mount Esquiline, one of the famous Seven Hills, was covered with snow. Therefore a basilica in honour of Our Lady was built there.
The present-day church is called the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore because it is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and one of the largest in the world.
Its Patronal Festival on 5 August commemorates of the miracle of the snow and during
this  celebration a shower of white rose petals is dropped from the dome of the Chapel of Our Lady.

 

 

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