Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major is among the most beautiful and interesting sites in Rome. It is of course a Marian shrine. The Basilica contains a wealth of art treasures as well as fascinating archaeological artifacts. It is the only one whose walls have retained their original structure. Imagine that pilgrims and worshippers have come to this site for 16 centuries. Amethyst and I spent several hours exploring and had remarkable experiences.

Here are two views of the enormous main hall. All the walls are filled with masterpieces of art and sculpture. Look at the gallery below for details.

Main Hall

Chapel

The visitors above at the black gates are looking in at a breathtaking chapel. The photos below were taken by carefully putting my lens through the bars of the gates and praying I got a photo!

“In this chapel, this jewel of rare beauty, art and faith find a perfect union. The icon of the Salus Populi Romani, recounted by pious tradition to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist, welcomes all who come before her with her maternal gaze. In 1605, Pope Paul V Borghese (1605-1621) was elected to the pontificate and it is to him that we owe this chapel, known as either the Borghese or Pauline chapel.” Vatican

 

Pope Pius

“In the crypt under the high altar lies the celebrated relic known as the Holy Crib. A statue of Pope Pius IX kneeling before the ancient wooden pieces of the manger serves as an example to the faithful who come to see the first humble crib of the Savior. Pius IX’s devotion to the Holy Crib led him to commission the crypt chapel, and his coat of arms is visible above the altar. The precious crystal urn trimmed in silver, through which the faithful can venerate the relic, was designed by Giuseppe Valadier.” Vatican

 

Museum

The tour guide invited us to stay in the museum even though we had not paid the extra fee. Half of it were vestments and documents. But the other half were great works of art as well as church relics. One case contains what Catholics believe to be a remnant of the “True Cross” found my St. Helena, mother of Emperor¬†Constantine. Believe what you may about such things, however Amethyst and I certainly felt some powerful energy.

 

Archaeological Site

Beneath the museum is an archaeological site with “Roman remains that were found here in the 18th century, including a section of Roman road, a mosaic pavement, two wells, a series of arches and narrow passages cut into the bedrock” dating from the first to fourth centuries A.D.

Our guide was kind enough to translate a lot into English for us. This site contains the remains of a Roman home as well as a tavern. One of the remarkable artifacts is a wall of Greek and Latin graffiti from the third century. Take a look at the gallery for more details. Quote from Sacred Destinations.