The Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore – in Italy, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, also known as Basilica of Santa Maria della Neve and Liberian Basilica – is a Roman Catholic basilica located in Rome. It is one of the four major basilicas and one of the five patriarchal basilicas associated with the Pentarquía: San Juan de Letrán, San Lorenzo Extramuros, San Pedro, San Pablo Extramuros and Santa María Maggiore.
The Liberian Basilica is one of the tituli, presided over by a patron – in this case, Pope Liberio – who housed the largest congregations of the first Christians in Rome. Built on a pagan temple of Cibeles, Santa María la Mayor is (along with Santa Sabina, something later) the only Roman church that conserves the strictly basilical plan and the early Paleo-Christian structure. The elevation, however, is not maintained in its original state due to the several additional construction projects (almost all trying to imitate the primitive style) and the damage of the 1348 earthquake.
The name of the church reflects two ideas of greatness, on the one hand that of a major basilica in opposition to a minor basilica and also that of the Virgin Mary; The Basilica is the largest and most important place dedicated to the Marian cult in Rome.
After the Papacy of Avignon formally ended and the popes returned to Rome, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore became a temporary residence for the popes due to the deteriorating state of the Lateran Palace. The papal residence later moved to the Vatican palace in what is now the Vatican City. In the Basilica are buried several popes, including Clement VIII, Paul V and St. Pius V. The basilica is one of the churches that must be visited in the pilgrimage of the seven churches of Rome to achieve plenary indulgence in the Holy Year.
In 1990 it was included in the list of World Heritage Sites in Europe by Unesco, with the identification number 91-004