Every year Rome’s Basilica of Saint Mary Major, also called Our Lady of the Snows, celebrates its Dedication on August 5th, referring to the legendary story about the foundation of the Basilica.

According to the legend, a fourth-century Roman couple, who were without heirs, made a vow to donate their possessions to the Virgin Mary. They prayed that she might make known to them how they were to dispose of their property in her honor. On the night between August 4 and 5, at the height of the Roman Summer, snow fell on the Esquiline Hill. The same night the couple had a vision of the Virgin Mary who told them that a miracle would reveal the site where they should build a new church. Pope Liberius is said to have travelled to the snow-covered site, tracing an outline of the planned church whose construction was financed by the wealthy couple.

Although there is no historical basis for the story, the event is still celebrated every year at the Saint Mary Major Basilica, with a light show on August 5th evening, between 9:00 pm and midnight. This year the show plans led laser beams that will write “peace” in the sky and optical light mirrors that will multiply the thrill of the viewers. The highlight of the show will be, as always, the spectacle of snow-like white flower petals fluttering from the sky.


Photo: Snow on Santa Maria Maggiore – by: Benvegnù – Guaitoli

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