Thousands of Romans and tourists flocked to the Roman basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore last night to witness the ‘miracle of the snow’. The event, organized by the architect Cesare Esposito and now in its 39th edition, recalls the prodigy of the Madonna della Neve which took place in 358 AD on the Esquiline Hill and represents a devotional tradition very dear to the Romans, transforming the square of Santa Maria Maggiore into a large open-air theater where intense artificial snow is staged. According to legend, on the night between 4 and 5 August 358 AD Our Lady appeared in a dream to a noble patrician and his wife, who, having no children, had decided to have a church built in her name and told them that a miracle would have indicated the place on which to build it. Pope Liberius also had the same dream and the following day, on his way to the Esquiline, he found it covered with snow. The Pope himself traced the perimeter of the building and the church was built at the expense of the couple, becoming known as the church of Santa Maria ‘Liberiana’ or popularly ‘ad Nives’. Staged for the first time in 1983, the commemoration, explains Esposito, is dedicated “to Pope Francis, our guide and our hope, so that he may continue in his mission of peace”. “I thank the mayor of Rome Roberto Gualtieri and all the priests of the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore”, adds the architect, who says he is “proud and happy” to have been able to see so many people in the square.
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