Everyone has heard the phrase Christmas in July, but how about snow in August? On August 30, Rome will experience its annual snowfall at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. No need to panic, it is not actual snow just white rose petals and a light show.
This snowstorm tradition stems from a 4th-century miracle sent by the Virgin Mary. The story goes that on the night of August 4, Mary appeared in a dream to Pope Liberius and two other devoted followers. She told the men when they woke they would find snow covering a particular spot in the city. This spot was where she wanted a church built. On the morning of August 5, the men found the snow covering the top of the Esquiline Hill. At the time, the area was located on the outskirts and was home to the city’s poor. This where the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore now sits.
The pope dedicated the spot to Madonna della Neve, Our Lady of the Snows. The church was built sometime later and was named Santa Maria della Neve. It went through two more name changes before it finally became Santa Maria Maggiore as it was the largest of the 26 churches in the city dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Every year since 1983, the church has celebrated the miraculous snowfall with their own version. Initially, white rose petals were dropped inside the church after the daily mass. However, as technology has grown more advanced, so has the celebration.
Now, in addition to the rose petals dropped after mass, the church hosts a nightly celebration. This event includes an outdoor light show along with projected images of Mary and a video of the archpriest’s earlier homily. Afterward, artificial snow is blown throughout the piazza for the spectators to enjoy. This display usually lasts for about 4 hours.
Traditionally, the outdoor celebration takes place on August 5, but this year the outdoor event was moved to August 30.
- Miraculous August Snowfall [Italy Magazine]
- Santa Maria Maggiore [Sacred Destinations]
- The Miracle of the Snow [Milestone Rome]
- Rome’s August Snow [Wanted in Rome]
- Feature Picture [Instagram]