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‘Virgin Mary’ – as the legend goes – indicated a rich couple to build a temple for her memory by covering an acre of land with snow in the middle of summer. The area indicated by the alleged miracle is on the Esquillian Hill. But the alleged miracle is only reported 1000 years late. The fall of snow is celebrated by throwing white petals atop of the church on August 5.
Led by Pope Liberius (350’s), the couple agreed to finance a temple in Mary’s honour. The couple then dedicated all their fortune to ‘Our Lady of the Snows’ – aka Santa Maria Maggiore/Santa Maria Liberiana or Liberian Basilica (after Pope Liberius).
In 431 the Council of Ephesus proclaimed Mary ‘Mother of God’ and Pope Sixtus III commissioned to make church on the site where ‘Our Lady of the Snows’ had already ordered a temple in her glory.
Since its first start by Liberius in 350’s, Santa Maria Maggiore went through various remodeling works. The apse was restored in 1200. The bell tower was built in the 1300’s. The back was replaced in 1600 and the facade in 1700.
There are many Santa Maria temples in Rome but the largest and important of all is Santa Maria Maggiore . This is one of the four Roman basilicas (St Paul outside the wall, St Peter’s and St John Laterine).