Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Four Major Basilicas of Rome

These four churches are so important to Catholic faith and history that we have feast days commemorating their dedications. They each dates back to the early church, though most of their structures have been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times over the centuries.

St. John Lateran

The first basilica was dedicated on this site in the early 300s. From that time until the 1300s, it was the principal residence of the popes. It is still officially the seat of the Patriarch of Rome. The current church dates from the 17th century.

The Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran is celebrated on November 9

St. Mary Major

This is the only one of the patriarchal basilicas to retain its original structure, although it has been embellished and added on to over the centuries. It is believed to be the oldest church in the west dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The lovely legend of Our Lady of the Snows is associated with the construction of this church.

The Feast of the Dedication of St. Mary Major is celebrated on August 5

St. Peter’s Basilica

This building replaced “Old St. Peter’s Basilica”, a Romanesque structure begun by Constantine in 323 on the site of the crucifixion of St. Peter. The obelisk which stands in the middle of St. Peter’s square originally stood in Nero’s circus, having been brought to Rome in 40 AD by Caligula and was thus witness to the deaths of numerous Christian martyrs, including St. Peter. It was moved to its current location in 1586. The present Basilica was constructed between 1506 and 1667.

St. Paul Outside the Walls

The site of St. Paul’s martyrdom, originally outside the city of Rome. A first, rather small, basilica was built by Constantine around 320. A larger basilica, built in 390, was destroyed by fire in 1823. The current basilica is intended to replicate the original structure.

Saint Paul’s tomb was unearthed below this church in 2006. Read more here…

The Feast of the Dedication of the Churches Sts. Peter and Paul is celebrated on November 18

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