5 Aug: O.L. of the Snows – Roman tradition – photos

Our friend John Sonnen of Orbis Catholicus has some photos of the moment when, to commemorate the ancient miracle of the August snowfall in Rome, panels in the ceiling of the papal Basilica of St. Mary Major are opened and white rose petals are let fall.

Here is his entry.  Be sure to go over their and spike his stats!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The liturgical life in Rome is rich with custom and tradition (unlike everywhere else after the sixties). One of the most special days to be in Rome is August 5th. This is the day in which is celebrated the liturgical feast of the "Madonna of the Snow."
And so today the Romans flocked back into the city from the beaches of Ostia for the morning to see the "snow" of the white jasmine and rose petals showering atop the confessio of the Patriarchal Basilica of Saint Mary Major during the choral singing of the Gloria. "Long live Catholic traditions in the face of the devil!" was all I could think of as I stood in awe amid the enchanted faithful in the face of the falling blessed flowers.

It was during the night of the nonae of August, between the fourth and fifth of August in the year 358 when the Virgin Mary appeared both to Giovanni Patricio and Pope Liberius, asking that a basilica be dedicated to her on a site in Rome where, that night, it would snow. The next morning the wealthy senator and the pope went to the Cispian, where that very night a heavy snow had fallen. Here, Pope Liberius watched by a giant crowd, traced the outline of the future church in the heavy snow and thus the basilica and another beautiful addition to our Catholic story.




About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. AJP says:

    I sure wish I was there! It would make putting
    up with the nastiness that is Rome’s climate in August worth it.

    I’ve always thougt “Our Lady of the Snows” would make a great name for
    a parish in the Upper Peninsula or Western New York.

  2. Johnny Domer says:

    It looks like the altar has the traditional seven candlesticks/crucifix setup even though the Pope isn’t offering this Mass. Is that the norm now in the 4 main Basilicas?

  3. bryan says:


    Notre Dame des Neiges is in Trois Pistoles, PQ. Already taken, and used (and the mother church of
    my grandmere’s family…).



  4. Gladiatrix says:

    I know there have been several revisions to the calendar since the time of this miracle; was August a summer month then too?

  5. Maureen says:

    Julius/Augustus Caesar had already changed the months. (August is for Augustus.) The Gregorian calendar change was only a change of 11 days or so.

    Yes, August was decidedly a summer month. :)

  6. Maureen says:

    That said, it’s not the snow that’s the miracle; freak weather happens, even in Rome in the summertime.

    Mary telling people ahead of time to build a church on the snow — that’s the impressive part! :)

  7. Jane says:

    I was only in Rome once and that was during the month of August until early September. It was hot. Snow in Rome in August is what I consider to be a miracle. I enjoyed learning about the white Jasmine and rose petal “snow” The pictures are great.

  8. Peggy says:

    Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville IL is among the ugliest modern dreck you’ve ever seen. They finished up a novena of healing today on the feast day. It’s run by the OMI order. It’s raining cats and dogs with lots of lightning and thunder tonight in the area.

  9. AM says:

    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia the legend of the snows was already questioned (to the point of possibly removing it from the Breviary) in 1741, largely on the grounds that there is no ancient attestation of it, not even in the rededication by Sixtus III a century after the original construction.

    What ought we then to think of such stories? (Similar one: on the miraculous arrival of St Mary Magdalene and her brother and sister in Marseilles, commemorated twp weeks ago.)

  10. Mitch says:

    I think it is a beautifultradition to keep….It must be great to be there….Just unusual and magical……….

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