Our Lady of the Snows
Today is a Marian Feast Day called Our Lady of the Snows. It originated back in circa 360AD when Pope Liberius commissioned the construction of the Liberian Basilica. According to legend, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to a wealthy and pious Roman and his wife, instructing them to build a church in her honor. The legend goes on to say that Pope Liberius also received an identical dream and immediately ordered the Basilica to be built. The location was set by a miraculous snowfall, in the middle of a heatwave, on Esquiline Hill in Rome. In this snowfall was the outline of the shape of the basilica in which Our Lady asked to be built.
This Basilica's greatest treasure is an image of Mary with a young Jesus, attributed to St. Luke. Legend has it that St. Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, brought the image to the Basilica in the third century. She was known to have visited the Holy Land with the goal of saving remnants of the holy places. The name of the image is Salus Populi Romani (The Salvation of the Roman People) because people thronged there when danger threatened their city.
The present church dates back to the fifth century when it was declared at the Council of Ephesus that the Virgin Mary is truly the Mother of God. Pope Sixtus III rebuilt the Basilica and added another name of : Santa Maria ad Praesepe "Saint Mary of the Crib". It was said that at this time, the Basilica had the manger from the stable in Bethlehem. Currently, there is a relic left of the manger in which Jesus lain under the High Altar of the Basilica.
For fun, I used a picture by Charlotte of Waltzing Matilda, of Our Lady of the Rosary and made it into Our Lady of the Snows. This Basilica was known as a place of refuge from attacks against other empires and a place to pray when plagues spread throughout Rome. It also became known as a place to pray for Our Lady's prayers and intercession during difficult times.
Every year on August 5th, at the end of mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major (Our Lady of the Snows), white rose petals shower down from it's dome in remembrance of the miraculous snowfall during a heatwave.
Our Lady of Snows, pray for us!