Saturday, 24 October 2009

St. Mary Major

St. Mary Major was built in 432 by pope Sisto III to celebrate the Virgin Mary as "Mother of God". During the centuries it was enlarged and richly decorated. The bell tower, with its 75 meters of height, is the highest one in Rome and it was erected in 1376. This church is also known with the name ad praesepe (holy family) because there are the supposed relics of the cradle of Jesus. In one of the chapels there are also other supposed relics: fragments of the swaddling clothes, some stones which were in the cave where Jesus was born together with some hay where Jesus was leant. In the museum of the Church it is displayed the oldest roman "presepe", done in 1290 by Arnolfo di Cambio. The great mosaic of the apse representing the Incoronation of the Virgin Mary, which has been done with a particular innovative style, was realised by Jacopo Torriti in 1295. Another curiosity: below one of the steps of the main altar there is the grave of Bernini.