The majestic facade of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore was designed by the Florentine architect Ferdinando Fuga (1699-1782) and built between 1741 and 1750. It masks a much older facade, which retains its medieval mosaics.
The mosaics (1294-1308), which decorate the back wall of what is now the Benediction Loggia, are the work of Filippo Rusuti, a pupil of Jacopo Torriti, the creator of the mosaics in the apse of the church.
Rusuti's mosaics illustrate an ancient legend relating to the foundation of Santa Maria Maggiore. On the night of August 4th, 352, the Virgin Mary appeared to Pope Liberius (r. 352-366) and John, a patrician of Rome. She told them that in the morning they would find a patch of snow covering the spot where they were to build a church. The prediction was fulfilled and the new church was called Santa Maria della Neve (St Mary of the Snow).
The two allegorical statues above the central opening are Chastity (Giovanni Battista Maini) and Humility (Pietro Bracci). The coat of arms belongs to Pope Benedict XIV (r. 1740-58 ). A statue of the Virgin and Child crowns the facade.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private and
small-group walking tours
Search Walks in Rome: