Our Lady of the Snows. Saint Mary Major. Salus Populi Romani, “Salvation of the Roman people,” all point to the same solemnity in Rome celebrated August 5th. Yes, Our Lady of the Snows in August – in Rome!
The history of the basilica has its origins in the 4th century. A wealthy Roman Christian couple, Giovanni and his wife, wanted to offer their possessions to the Virgin Mary by dedicating a Church to her. In a dream one evening, between August 4-5 they couple dreamed the Virgin Mary would notify him where it was to be built.
They visited Pope Liberius to given an account of their intentions and the dream; the Pope had a similar dream. by the name of Giovanni and his The Virgin Mary appeared to Pope Liberius (342-346) and they went to the site indicated by the Virgin Mary: the Esquiline Hill. Upon arriving, the hill was covered in snow.
And so, in the month of August snow on the Esquiline Hill; a sign from Mary. And so, the Church was dedicated to Saint Mary of the Snows, Sanctae Maria ad Nives. Planning and design of the basilica as the pilgrim experiences today was under the pontificate of Pope Sixtus III (432-440) – or even projected under Pope Celestine I (422-32). The basilica as early as the 4th century reflects the view of Rome as being the centre of the Christian world which can be traced to the presence and martyrdom of the early Apostles, Peter and Paul.
Fr. David Bellusci, O.P.
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