St Peter's Basilica and Saint Paul Outside the Walls were the first to receive the title of «Major», in 1300. The other two have been designated as such in 1350 and 1380, respectively.
According to what the Catholic Church has established, visiting these four places helps to obtain the plenary indulgence during the Holy Year.
We'll follow this chronological order. So, please, meet our protagonists!
#1: St. Peter's Basilica
Official name: Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican
Distinctive features: Considered as the largest church in the world, it's built on the site where Saint Peter has been crucified upside down. And, of course, St. Peter's Basilica is famous worldwide for its immense artistic value, being the result of geniality and great artistry of artists like Michelangelo and Bernini, among others.
Saint Peter's Basilica
#2: Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
Official name: Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls
Distinctive features: It's been built on the burial place of Paul the Apostle, the Patron Saint of Rome along with Saint Peter; no surprise this magnificent place of faith is in this exclusive list, right? Why «outside the walls»? Because this Basilica is situated outside the ancient city walls, the Aurelian Walls.
Saint Paul Outside the Walls Basilica
#3: Archbasilica of St. John In The Lateran
Official name: Major Papal and Roman Archbasilica of the Most Holy Savior and Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist in Lateran, Mother and Head of All Churches in Rome and in the World
Distinctive features: The oldest of the Four Major Basilicas, it is the ecclesiastical seat of the Roman Pontiff. Dedicated both to John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, it also owns the title of the mother of all catholic churches.
Archbasilica of St. John In The Lateran. Bonnet, 1846.
#4: Basilica of Saint Mary Major
Official name: Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major
Distinctive features: Last but not least, Santa Maria Maggiore it the largest of all Catholic Marian churches. It's dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the protectress of the Roman people. It's the only Major Basilica to have preserved its original core structure and it features the highest bell tower in Rome. As the story goes, the gold used to gild the ceiling is traditionally believed to have been brought by Columbus to the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, who donated it to the Spanish Pope, Alexander VI Borgia.
Basilica of Saint Mary Major
Bonus fact: St. Peter’s Basilica, San Giovanni in Laterano, and San Paolo Fuori le Mura were all originally built under Constantine I, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.
If you're planning your Roman holidays, don't forget to visit these four pillars of Roman Catholic Church. And, of course, don't miss out on our selection of rosaries with the Major Basilicas acting as the Paters beads.