Annual celebrations have been taking place in Rome, to celebrate a miraculous snowfall that, according to legend, took place in the August of the year 358 AD.
According to tradition, the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to two faithful Roman Christians, the patrician John and his wife, as well as to Pope Liberius (352-366). Mary asked that a church be built in her honour on a site where snow would fall in Rome that very night in August 358.
When they awoke the three dreamers found that the miraculous snowfall had occurred on Rome’s Esquiline hill, despite the summer heat that year too.
Pope Liberius used the snow to trace the outline of the church and work on the first Saint Mary Major Basilica began on the site. It was completed about a century later by Pope Sixtus III (432-440), after the Council of Ephesus in 431 during which Mary was declared to be the Mother of God.
The miracle snowfall has been celebrated in the ‘Feast of Our Lady of the Snows’ in many different ways over the years including artificial foam snowflakes falling outside the basilica on the gathered faithful, and showers of white rose petals dropping from the ceiling inside the church of to commemorate the legend.