This is one of the most important temples of the Catholic religion, since Santa María la Mayor is part of the list of the four Major Basilicas of Rome. Which are: Saint Peter of the Vatican, Saint Paul Outside the Walls and Saint John Lateran.
Facade of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome
The reason why Santa María la Mayor or Maggiore is part of the list of the highest-ranking churches, is that it is a temple that originated as an Early Christian basilica, and which is also the largest dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
As if that were not enough, when the papal seat returned to Rome, after the Western Schism of the 14th century, this basilica became the residence of the Pope until his transfer to Vatican.
Apart from the legends surrounding the construction of this church on the top of the Esquiline Hill in Rome, the truth is that the early Christian basilica The original construction began in the 5th century, but it was modified several times and several chapels were added (12th, 16th and 17th centuries), and its current façade was built in the mid-18th century. A façade that hid some 13th-century mosaics, the work of Filippo Rusuti, which are one of the great secrets of this temple.
Central nave and central arch of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore
However, in Santa María Maggiore there are much older mosaics typical of Paleo-Christian work, such as those preserved in the central nave or in the Triumphal Arch. And also more than remarkable is the gilt wood coffered ceiling made in the 16th century by the Renaissance architect Giuliano da Sangallo.
As we have said, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is an amalgamation, very well harmonized by the way, of additions throughout history. For example, the outer apse was also built in the 17th century, and was the work of the architect Carlo Rainaldi. Which presented a cheaper project than another great artist of the moment: Bernini, who perhaps would have made a cheaper proposal if he had known that his tomb was going to be here, inside this basilica.
Actually, great names of Italian art are present in this great temple. From Arnolfo di Cambio author of an ancient Oratorio from the 13th century to the frescoes of the Baroque painter Guido Reni, through countless architects, sculptors and painters who worked in the different chapels and also in the tombs of some popes who are buried here.