The weather in Rome is crazy these days.
Yesterday the sidewalk was literally melting under my feet. No, really, watch this video.
And tonight it’s going to snow.
Our Lady of the Snows is a feast we celebrate throughout the Church, but it all started here in Rome on August 5th in the fourth century.
A wealthy couple was praying for something to do with their money. The legend says that while they were sleeping, Mary appeared to the man in his dream saying, “I want you to build a church where it snows tomorrow in Rome.”
He woke up the next morning, probably all sweaty and gross since sidewalks typically melt here in August, and even in the year 2022, air conditioning is hard to find. But he knew he had to tell someone about this crazy dream. So he went to visit his good friend, who just happened to be Pope Liberias.
Before he could even begin to tell the pope about his dream, the pope said, “Hey, I had the weirdest dream last night! Mary appeared to me and told me to build a church where it snows tomorrow in Rome. Can you believe it? Snow? In Rome? In August?”
Just then the pope’s assistant comes in and says, “Holy Father, it’s snowing!”
Snow in Rome is rare. Snow in August… miraculous.
They all rushed down the street to the Esquiline Hill, and sure enough, snow had fallen.
The pope outlined the church he saw in his dream, and construction began immediately.
Here’s a relief of the pope outlining the church into the snow, found directly above the Salus Populi Romani in Saint Mary Major.
And here’s a detail from one of my favorite paintings in the Vatican Museums of that same event.
To celebrate this miraculous snowfall, every year on August 5th, a Mass takes place in the basilica of Saint Mary Major and white flower petals are dropped from the ceiling.
In the evening, the snowfall is recreated in the piazza outside the church. There’s music, a light show, and the event turns into a big foam party by midnight.
Today’s Papal Trivia
Pope Liberias is our first pope to not be canonized. In fact, he’s the only pope in the first 500 years of the Church to not be declared a Saint. He built a pretty cool church, though.