Our Patriarchal Basilicas Tour starts at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls, or Basilica Papale di San Paolo fuori le Mura. Originally founded by the emperor Constantine over the burial site of Saint Paul himself - the cella memoriae - and in its early days was also referred to as the Basilica of the three lords (Honorius, Taurinius and Herculanus). After many years of development, reconstruction and fortification required due to earthquakes, conquest and raids, a disastrous fire in 1823 lead to the near complete destruction of the basilica which was completely reconstructed and reopened in 1840. The vast and impressive complex still houses some of the most stunning mosaics and it’s setting and serene surroundings make it the ideal starting point for the Roman Patriarchal Basilicas Tour.
About your tour
You will start with St. Paul’s outside the Walls before heading to cathedral church of Rome and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Roman Pontiff, the Papal Archbasilica of St. John in the Lateran or San Giovanni in Laterano. Finally your minibus and guide will accompany you to the Santa Maria Maggiore or Saint Mary Major in the heart of the Rome for you final basilica on the pilgrimage. This morning tour can also be accompanied by our afternoon Roman Pilgrimage Tour which takes on the other three churches of the classical seven pilgrim churches of Rome.
The Classical 7 Roman Pilgrim Churches were modified slightly in 2000 for the Jubilee when the sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love or Santuario della Madonna del Divino Amore was included in the list of seven churches of the catholic pilgrimage replacing San Sebastiano. We visit the more traditional itinerary as described in Franzini’s guide written in 1595, San Giovanni Laterano, St Peter's Basilica, San Paolo Fuori le Mura, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Lorenzo fuori Le Mura, San Sebastiano, and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme - on a full day holy pilgrimage tour.
Top tour highlights
San Giovanni in Laterano (and not San Pietro or Saint Peter’s) to many people’s surprise is the seat of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, where the Holy Roman Pontiff is crowned to this day. This next destination not only offers pilgrims the chance to pass through the Holy Doors, you will also see famous relics such as the table on which the last supper was enjoyed. The Basilica is the oldest and most important of the five world papal basilicas and four patriarchal basilicas of the city, although none can match the beauty and artistic heritage of St. Peter’s in the Vatican pilgrims tour.
The Holy Pilgrimage Tour of Rome continues at Santa Maria Maggiore or Saint Mary Major which is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary (Marian Churches). Santa Maria Maggiore is sometimes referred to as Our Lady of the Snows in reference to the miracle that occurred in the early 4th century during the pontificate of Liberius - when snow fell on the peak of the Esquiline Hill - as an indication of where roman patricians were to build a church in honour of the Blessed Virgin. The present church was built during the reign of Pope Sixtus III and is the first church in Rome dedicated to the Sacred Virgin Mary coming directly after the council of Ephesus in 331 which proclaimed Mary as the mother of God.