The Great Churches

This is a four-hour tour with minimal walking. A private car is necessary to reach the churches.

 

Everyday except on Sunday morning.

 

The Basilica of Saint Mary Major

The Basilica of Saint John in Lateran, The Holy Steps

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

 

 

The Basilica of Saint Mary Major

Santa Maria Maggiore is the largest of the Roman churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is one of the four "papal" basilicas (the others include St. John Lateran, St. Peter and St. Paul outside the Walls).

It was built by Pope Liberius in around 360, after (according to legend) he and a local patrician and his wife had identical simultaneous dreams of the Virgin Mary in which snow was predicted to fall on a particular night in August (the middle of summer), which it did. It is now called the Miracle of the Snow, and on each anniversary white rose petals are dropped from the dome during the mass of the feast.

Mass has been held here every single day since the fifth century.

This is my favourite church in all of Rome. It doesn't match the scale of St. Peters or St. Pauls, but its interior is perhaps the finest and the atmosphere is much more intimate. For a Christian, it's impossible to resist the urge to pray here.

 

The Basilica of Saint John in Lateran, The holy steps

When Emperor Constantine declared Christianity legal in 313 A.D. (ending the persecutions), this was the first church he built (in 324 A.D. - obviously it has been rebuilt a few times since then). It was, and still is, known as the "Cathedral of Rome and of the World", and is the official seat of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). It houses the papal throne. Theoretically it ranks above all other churches in the Catholic religion

This is not my favourite church from an architectural point of view - it has borrowed a whole mixture of styles from the various ages - but it's still quite amazing, historically very significant, and well worth a visit.

 

 

The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

This church was also originally was built by Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. It was built beside the cemetery where St. Paul was buried after he was martyred, which was "outside the walls" of the city of Rome (nobody could not be buried inside the walls). Paul's tomb is now below a marble tombstone in the Basilica's crypt. Like the above two churches, this one also has a long and colourful history which I'd love to share with you. The scale of the church is breathtaking, an experience you won't forget.