Catholic Basilicas

While Every Catholic church building represents the Catholic Church made up of the living members of the Body of Christ, basilicas are Catholic churches with even greater significance.

A church receives the title of basilica because of its age, spirituality, architecture, or historical value. Only a pope can designate a church as a basilica which then shares a special bond of communion with the Holy Father.

Minor Catholic basilicas can be found throughout the world but the 4 Major Basilicas are found in Rome.

The four greatest churches in Rome are St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. These are known as Papal Basilicas of the Church.

Each of the Papal Basilicas contain a special throne and altar. It is traditional for the pope to celebrate certain liturgies at these Major Basilicas during the year.

St. John Lateran is the oldest of the Papal Basilicas and the most important Catholic church. It is the only Archbasilica and the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the pope.

The Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran is celebrated by the Church on November 9. It marks the dedication of the cathedral church of Rome by Pope Sylvester I in 324.

The Memorial of the Dedication of St. Mary Major is celebrated on August 5. The Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul Outside the Walls are celebrated together on November 18.

Important Catholic buildings:

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A church designated by the pope:

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When the exercise of religious liberty is not thwarted, Christians construct buildings for divine worship. These visible churches are not simply gathering places but signify and make visible the Church living in this place, the dwelling of God with men reconciled and united in Christ.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1180

A particular honor bestowed upon a church:


Catholic basilica’s are marked with special symbols:

Saint Mary Basilica, Natchez

On this Sunday the Church in Rome and all Christian people celebrate the feast of the dedication of the Lateran Basilica, considered by very ancient tradition to be the mother of all churches. The liturgy speaks to us of the temple: the temple which is first of all Christ’s body, but which through Christ is also every individual. The Apostle Paul asks: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” This temple is built on the foundation laid by God himself. “No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus”. He is the cornerstone of the divine building.

Pope John Paul II, Homily, 9 November 1997

The mother church of Rome and the whole world:

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The church of the Chair of St. Peter:

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The largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Mother:

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Honoring the great Apostle to the Gentiles:

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Come to Him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 2: 4-5

A feast day for all Catholic churches:

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A Church that is bigger than its buildings:

Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network – USA

The Truth, Goodness, and Beauty of the Catholic Church

If you don’t want the Eucharist, you don’t want Jesus:

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