Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore: Tickets & Opening Hours

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The Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore Rome is a Papal Basilica and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is the largest of its kind in Rome. Although a Papal cathedral, the Church is not located in the Vatican City. It is to be found within Rome. However, the Italian state is obliged, thanks to the Lateran Treaty signed in 1921, to recognise Vatican sovereignty at this location. In addition, the owner of the Santa Maria Maggiore Rome is recognised at the Vatican.

Interesting Facts & History about the Maggiore Basilica

  • The Basilica is often known as Our Lady of the Snows. In the 1500s, this became a popular name for the church. Legend has it that a childless couple are claimed to have wished to donate their possessions to the Virgin Mary, and prayed for a sign. It was a summer’s day, and that evening the couple had a vision of Mary. The next morning, snow had fallen atop of the Esquiline Hill. Therefore, the couple decided to build a church here.
  • The legend of the snow is celebrated during the celebratory Mass for the cathedral. From the top of the Cathedral, white rose petals are thrown from the dome.
  • A number of religious buildings have stood on the site, including one dedicated to the Juno the Roman goddess

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Astonishing Santa Maria Maggiore Architecture

Only St Peter’s Basilica is claimed to be more beautiful than the Basilica Maggiore. The current church was built in 431 AD (the original one built by the childless couple lasted not even a century). However, parts of the church have been restored, added and repaired throughout the ages. This leaves an interesting mish mash of architectural features.

  • The 14th Century Bell Tower is Rome’s tallest and affords great views over the city
  • Gothic windows
  • 13th Century internal ceiling is decorated with gold
  • Santa Maria Maggiore mosaics adorn the ceiling. Some date to the 3rd Century
  • The Apse Mosaic from the 13th century is phenomenal, and depict Mary and Jesus

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore triumphal arch mosaics & interior

Santa Maria Maggiore triumphal arch

The Santa Maria Maggiore Triumphal Arch is one of the key features of the basilica. Featuring in the nave, the triumphal arch is adorned with stunning mosaics. These mosaics tell stories from Jesus’ childhood, and lead the eye of the viewer to the amazing apse.

The interior features even more delights. There is a statue of King Phillip IV of Spain, who part funded the build. Some of the windows have been covered over with magnificent frescoes that depict the life of the Virgin Mary. The mosaics are absolutely stunning. Coupled with the awe inspiring columns, the sight is truly remarkable.

Christmas In Rome – Santa Maria Maggiore Christmas mass

The Christmas mass is renowned in Rome. The nativity scene is one of the city’s most beautiful. The mass is a sombre affair, but the music and atmosphere is magical. Held at midnight on Christmas Eve, it attracts locals and foreigners alike.

Magnificent Santa Maria Maggiore Events

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

If you cannot make it for Christmas mass, do not worry. The 5th August celebrates the snow fall, when white rose petals will fall from the height of the church to coat the ground below.

Otherwise, mass is held hourly every morning until 12pm

For the full list of all masses and events held weekly, check out the link here.

Getting Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore Tickets

You do not need tickets to enter of visit the Basilica. It is a working church, so expect to have to wait to enter if a mass is on. A token gift donation left in the offering box will be welcomed.

Info about Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore Hours

The Basilica is open daily from 7am to 7pm, but closes at 6pm in the winter.

Sundays and feast days open from 9am to 12pm

Santa Maria Maggiore Location Details

Located on Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore, you cannot miss this spectacular church, which dominates the square.

Take metro line A or B to Termini station. From there, you will have just a ten to fifteen minute walk to the Basilica, which is found on top of the Esquiline hill.

Hotels near Santa Maria Maggiore Rome

Vinci House hotel from booking.com

Perhaps you want to say near to the action and enjoy the view of Basilica with a quick walk? Pick a hotel nearby and enjoy the scenery!

  • The Vinci House guest house is just 0.2 kilometres away. Here, enjoy the beautifully renovated surroundings. Private rooms and bathrooms in this small guest house mean you will have a peaceful experience.  Rooms start at about €130
  • The Gemme di Roma is another option. Rooms here include a lovely breakfast.  The hotel is situated just a 5 minute walk from the Cathedral. The pleasant colour themed rooms start from just €100


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What are the best restaurants in Rome Italy near Santa Maria Maggiore?

Touring this gorgeous cathedral surely works up an appetite. There are plenty of great restaurants just a stone’s throw from the cathedral. However, the Ristorante Casa Maria sure gets our vote. Dine on Roman specialities, pizza and pasta accompanied with magnificent views of the cathedral.

What is the Santa Maria Maggiore?

It's the largest Marian Cathedral in Rome, and one of four papal Basilicas in the city. It belongs to the Vatican City.

What to see in Santa Maria Maggiore?

The main features of this stunning cathedral include jaw dropping mosaics. These include those telling stories of Jesus and Mary’s lives. The golden ceiling is rumoured to have been decorated from the first shipment of gold from explorations in the new world. There are also amazing marble pillars and lots of statues adding to the Cathedral’s grandeur.

When was Santa Maria Maggiore built?

The current structure is believed to have been completed in 431 AD

Where is the Santa Maria Maggiore?

The Basilica is located on the largest hill in Rome- the Esquiline hill- and is located in the Piazza di S. Maria Maggiore.

What saints are on top of Basilica?

Former Popes – St Martin, St Gregor, St Sixtus III and saint Ilarius flank a statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the Cathedral.


There is so much more to see in this stunning cathedral than we could mention here. Please take a look – it is a great free thing to do in Rome and will for sure remain on your mind.

Once you have planned in time to see the Santa Maria Maggiore, head on over to some of our other information pages to help you complete the planning for your trip.

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