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Santa Maria Maggiore, is one of the four Roman patriarchal basilicas; along with St Peter's, St Paul's (outside the wall) and St John Laterine. It is the only remaining example of Paleochristian architecture in the city. Built according to the wishes of Pope Sixtus III, in 431 A.D., after the council of Ephesus, the apse was renovated in 1200. The back and main facades were replaced in 1600 and 1700 respectively. The bell tower, however, was built in the 1300's. Excavations from 1966-1971 revealed artefacts from the eras of Augustus, Hadrian and Constantine.
The interior, above the colonnades and triumphal arch, contains decorative mosaic motifs from the 5th century. The floors, in part, are, 'cosmatesque'; that is, attributed to the Cosmati family, particularly active in Rome during the 12th century.
Down a small stairway is found the impressive oratory of the manger, with its statue of Arnolfo di Cambio. On the floor, directly in front of the chapel is a stone marking the Bernini family crypt, wherein lies Gian Lorenzo. The Paolina chapel contains a Byzantine Madonna print from the 8th century. In the Sala del Capitolo are two rare paintings from the Sienesque school: Madonna col bambino (Madonna with child) by Domenico Beccafumi, e Andata al Calvario (on the way to Calvary) by Sodoma.

Piazza di St. Maria Maggiore
Hours: 7:00 A.M.- 8:00 P.M.
How to get there: From the Termini train station, take Via Cavour for 200 meters, until Largo Esqualino. The basilica is on the left. The entrance is on the opposite side.

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