Whether you are on a religious pilgrimage, or just visiting Rome and looking for some of the beauty and history this city has to offer, here is everything you need to know about visiting Santa Maria Maggiore Rome:
Santa Maria Maggiore Rome - one of the four Major Basilicas
Santa Maria Maggiore (Saint Mary Major) is one of only 4 patriarchal/major basilicas in the world, which, by the way, are all in Rome: The other 3 are Saint Peter's; Saint John in Lateran; Saint Paul Outside the Walls.
Technically, the four major basilicas in the world are not all in Rome.
These basilicas used to be called Patriarchal Basilicas. The term "Patriarchal Basilica" used to refer to the basilicas ceremonially assigned to one of the Patriarchs. Santa Maria Maggiore originally was assigned to the patriarch of Antioch.
In 2006, Pope Benedict declared the term Patriarchal Basilica to be obsolete, and now the four churches of Saint Peter, Saint John in Lateran, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, and Saint Mary Major are called Papal Basilicas, or Major Basilicas.
Santa Maria Maggiore Rome - What to see
It's easy to just visit Santa Maria Maggiore, walk in, walk around and soak up the scenery.
It's a massive church, and there is so much artwork, so much gold leaf, and so many little side chapels and cupolas and things to see at every turn, you can simply enjoy the view and that's that.
There are many websites and books with lots of details about this basilica's history and architecture so I won't repeat them here. Let me just give you the nitty-gritty of what to see:
There are two façades to Santa Maria Maggiore Rome: The original one was
The Column in the Piazza
The overall interior
The original 4th century architectural design
Santa Maria Maggiore - quick facts and a brief history
Santa Maria Maggiore is the largest of 26 churches in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary (hence the name, Maggiore, or Major/Most.)
Santa Maria Maggiore was built at the top of Cispius, the highest part of the Esquiline hill, which is the highest of the seven hills of Rome. The medieval bell tower of the basilica is also the tallest in Rome, at 75 meters.
The miracle summer snowfall
Santa Maria Maggiore Rome - practical info
The Basilica is open daily from 7am to 6:45pm.
You can easily reach the basilica via the Metro lines A or B at Termini train station. It's only a 5-10 minute walk from there.
Bonus! There are two caffe's on the piazza that are open daily from 6am.
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