Today is the Feast of S. Mary Major; the oldest church in Rome dedicated to Our Blessed Lady : and its official Latin title, Basilica Sanctae Mariae Majoris ad Nives, recalls the tradition that its site and plan were laid out by Pope Liberius in the mid-4th Century . . . on the place where a snowfall occurred on the night of 4th – 5th August !
It is one of the Papal Basilicas, and is currently staffed by (to the best of my knowledge and belief) Redemptorists and Dominicans; and it contains, in the Borghese chapel, the icon ‘Salus Populi Romani’ – an icon of the Blessed Virgin and Our Lord, which tradition has it was painted by S. Luke. Such traditions are, of course, frquent; but radiocarbon dating has shown the icon to be of an age which is at least arguably compatible with that claim.
The Basilica is traditionally used by the Pope on a number of important occasions during the year, including the Assumption; but perhaps the most delightful tradition of the church is that of recalling the snowfall which gave birth to the Basilica by showering down white rose petals during today’s Mass.