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Exterior of the Basilica


The Basilica stands as a well outlined and compact architectural complex. The main facade was built on the occasion of the Holy Year of 1750 by the Florentine architect, Ferdinando Fuga. Here, the Loggia of Benedictions is the dominant element. It is characterized by a slender triumphal arch motif that frames Filippo Rusuti’s mosaics (circa 1300) of Christ on his throne with saints at his side, and of the Miracle of the Snows.

Standing at a height of 75 metres, the Basilica’s brick bell tower is the tallest bell tower in Rome, and because the Basilica is located on a hill, it is also the highest spot in the city.


The Sistine Capel was built in the northern part of the Basilica between 1585 and 1587. Along with the Pauline Chapel, which was built two decades later, it defines the external look of Saint Mary Major. Its back faces the historical centre and was enhanced by a monumental staircase by Carlo Rainaldi in 1673.