Rome – The cult of the Madonna della Neve is linked to the birth of the largest church dedicated to the Virgin: Santa Maria Maggiore and to the event of the extraordinary snowfall that occurred during the summer season. The importance of celebrating the contemporaneity of these two events is in the fact that Mary is the very image of the Church.
In the fourth century, under the pontificate of Pope Liberius, a noble and rich Roman patrician named Giovanni and his wife, having no children, decided to offer their goods to the Holy Virgin, for the construction of a church dedicated to her. Our Lady accepted the wish and appeared to the two in a dream, the night between 4 and 5 August, saying that she would indicate with a miracle the place where the church was to rise.
The next morning, the couple went to Pope Liberius to tell the dream and it was discovered that the Pope had also had the same dream. They went to the place indicated, the Esquiline Hill, which they found covered with snow, in the height of summer. The Pope traced the perimeter, following the surface of the snow-covered ground and there he had the temple built at the expense of the noble spouses.
This narrates the tradition which, however, is not reflected in any document. The church was called “Liberiana” from the name of the Pontiff, but by the people it was called Santa Maria “ad Nives”, della Neve. Later, this church was demolished by Sixtus III who had a more imposing and majestic basilica built, to which he gave the name of Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, to indicate its pre-eminence over all the churches dedicated to the Madonna.
Anna Rita Santoro