Santa Maria Maggiore: Overall exterior view of facade, campanile and Marian column
The Marian column, erected in 1614 to designs of Carlo Maderno, is the model for numerous Marian columns erected in Catholic countries in thanksgiving for remission of the plague during the Baroque era.
Situated at the end of the Esquiline Hill and formerly known as S Maria ad Praesepem, S Maria Maggiore was traditionally founded by Pope Liberius (reigned 352-366) and financed by Johannes, a rich citizen, after a miraculous summer snowfall. It is more likely, however, that it was founded in the early 5th century by Sixtus III, whose name appears in the mosaics of the triumphal arch in front of the apse. Until the 12th century, when Eugenius III (reigned 1145-1153) built the narthex, work on the church was mainly limited to maintenance. The mosaic decoration of S Maria Maggiore was executed in the 5th and 8th centuries; the earlier scheme, in the Classical tradition, comprises the most important mosaic cycle in Rome of this period. Chapels were added and other changes in subsequent centuries; Longhi and Fuga are responsible for changes to the facade (ca. 1743).