Marie - Mary - Maria

Our Lady of the Snows is an old name for St Mary Major, a Church that is a Major Papal Basilica in Rome and the biggest Marian Shrine of ancient Christianity, being constructed initially by Pope Liberius around the year 360.

The National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is a Catholic shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Belleville, Illinois, nine miles southeast of St. Louis, Missouri. The Shrine's director is the Reverend Father Salvador Gonzalez, OMI. The shrine is in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville, but the United States Province of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate operates it. The Shrine's name refers to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome, where legend says snow fell in the summertime.

Our Lady of the Snows commemorates an apparition of Our Lady to a faithful husband and wife in Rome in Year 358, where she made snow fall during the hot month of August. A new church, St Mary Major, was built on that spot in answer to Our Lady’s direction.

Feastday August 5th

On 5 August each year, during the celebration of the liturgical feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, a custom that commemorates the story of the miraculous snowfall is still maintained: after Solemn Mass, a shower of white rose petals is dropped from the ceiling.

At sunset on the same day, another artificial "snowfall" is staged as a tourist attraction in the square fronting the basilica.

Apart from the above-mentioned many shrines of the Madonna della Neve in Italy, the United States has a "National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows" in Belleville, Illinois, and parishes dedicated to "Our Lady of the Snows" are located in Reno, Nevada; Floral Park, New York, Milford, Michigan and Woodstock, Vermont. In Croatia, Bol on the island of Brač and the parish church in Mamre on the island of Pag is dedicated to the Lady of the Snows. There is also the Kostol Panny Márie Snežnej on Calvary Hill in Bratislava, Slovakia, as well as in Marsaxlokk in Malta, and also the Transfiguration of Our Lord Church in Cavinti, Laguna, where the Virgin under this title is secondary patroness (with the primary dedication, the Transfiguration, celebrated the next day). Nuestra Señora de las Nieves is also in the Yucatán area of Mexico near Tulum & Playa Del Carmen. It is within the resort community of Grand Palladium.

Today, August 5th, the Church celebrates the Dedication of St. Mary Major feast, which is also sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Snows. 

1. St. Mary Major refers to a place, not a person

Or at least “Mary” refers to the Mother of God, not a separate saint. St. Mary Major is one of the four Roman basilicas known as patriarchal, or “major”, cathedrals in memory of the first centers of the Church. (We also celebrate the dedication of St. John Lateran, one of the other three, in November.) St. Mary Major was dedicated in the mid-400s, shortly after the Council of Ephesus affirmed Mary’s title as Mother of God; for more information on the patriarchal cathedrals.

2. Why is this particular church so vital that it gets its feast?

St. Mary Major is the largest church in the world, honouring God through Mary. It was Christendom’s first Marian shrine for pilgrims. St. Jerome is buried there, along with several popes. The basilica also houses a famous icon of the Blessed Mother known as Salus Populi Romani (“Health of the Roman People”).

3. And finally, what’s up with the snow?

A legend, unreported until the 1000s, says that around 350 A.D., a wealthy Roman couple who wanted their money to be used to honour Blessed Mother prayed earnestly for a sign. Mary appeared to the husband in a dream, asking that a church be built for her. She would show them the spot by sending down a miraculous midsummer snowfall. The couple quickly went and told the Pope, who had had a similar dream. On August 5th, snow fell on the Esquiline hill in Rome, defining the church's floor plan.

While there is no evidence that the snowfall occurred, the feast of the Dedication of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows was added to the universal calendar in 1568. In 1969, the feast's name was changed to its current title, “Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major”. Every year, a shower of white rose petals is released from the basilica’s dome on the feast day. Check out this “cool” tradition in the video above.

Can’t make it to Rome this year? There is also a national shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois.

Mary, Queen of the World and St. James the Great Cathedral

1085, rue de la Cathédrale

Montreal, Quebec

Mary, Queen of the World Cathedral or in full Mary, Queen of the World and St. James the Great Cathedral is a minor basilica in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal. It is the third largest church in Quebec after Saint Joseph's Oratory (also in Montreal) and the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré east of Quebec City. The building is 101 m (333 ft) in length, 46 m (150 ft) in width, and a maximum height of 77 m (252 ft) at the cupola, the diameter of which is 23 m (75 ft).

The church is located at 1085 Cathedral Street at the corner of René Lévesque Boulevard and Metcalfe Street, near the Bonaventure metro station and Central Station in downtown Montreal. It and the connected Archdiocese main buildings form the eastern side of Place du Canada, and occupies a dominant presence on Dorchester Square.

The construction of the cathedral was ordered by Mgr. Ignace Bourget, second bishop of Montreal, to replace the former Saint-Jacques Cathedral which had burned in 1852. His choice to create a scale model of Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome was in response to a rivalry with the Sulpician order who had been the feudal seigneurs of Montreal, and with the Anglican Church, both of which favoured the Neo-Gothic style instead. The site also sparked controversy due to its location in the western part of downtown, in a then predominantly English neighbourhood far from the homes of the French-Canadian church-goers.

The first architect, Victor Bourgeau, refused the project after studying St. Peter's, saying that it could not be reproduced on a smaller scale. At the time, the Holy See and the Papal States were threatened by the nationalist troops of Victor Emmanuel II, king of Piedmont, who was attempting to assert control over all Italy. The undeterred bishop Bourget reacted to these events by sending a total of 507 Canadian Zouaves to defend the Papal territories in Italy, whose names are engraved in gold letters on the marble slabs in the cathedral. Their motto is: "Love God and go your way." A painting depicting Colonel Athanase de Charette, commander of the Papal Zouaves, was made in 1885 by Lionel Royer. Fr. Joseph Michaud, the chaplain of the Papal Zouave volunteers of Montreal, was sent to Rome to secretly produce a scale model to work from.

Work began in 1875 and the new church was consecrated in 1894 as Saint James Cathedral, after Saint James the Great, the patron of the parish the church served. At the time it was the largest church in Quebec. It was made a minor basilica in 1919 by Pope Benedict XV. It was rededicated in 1955 to Mary, Queen of the World, by Pope Pius XII at the request of cardinal Paul-Émile Léger. (The pope had proclaimed this title for Mary in his 1954 encyclical Ad caeli reginam.)

Between 1955 and 1960, several restoration works were executed. On March 28, 2000, the cathedral was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[

As of 2003, the cathedral's esplanade and narthex have undergone significant reconstruction. The exterior statue of Bishop Ignace Bourget was cleaned and restored in 2005.

Our Lady of High Grace