An affluent, aristocratic family witnessed an astonishing miracle during the 4th century. John and his wife were childless and prayed to the Blessed Mother for a child with whom they could share their love. They made a vow to donate their possessions to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Our Lady appeared to them in a dream on the night of August 4th into August 5th and told them to build a church in her honor on the Esquiline hill. She explained that the exact location of where they were to build would be marked out in snow. This would be their sign that the request was truly from her. Incredibly, during that sultry summer night, a snowfall outlined the shape of the basilica on the hill. That night, the Blessed Mother also appeared to Pope Liberius in a dream so that he, too, could witness and confirm the miracle.
The next morning, Roman citizens gathered on the hill to see the uncommon occurrence of snow sparkling in the summer sun. When John and his wife woke up, they hurried to the hill to see the miracle. Shortly afterward, the pope arrived. The people quickly staked off the area of the basilica’s location before the snow melted. The basilica was built within two years and blessed by Pope Liberius.
After the Council of Ephesus defined Mary as Theotokos, which means "God bearer", the Mother of God, in 432 A.D., Pope Sixtus III rebuilt and beautified the basilica. Since the seventh century, it has been referred to as St. Mary Major. The Basilica has also been called Our Lady of the Snows in honor of the miraculous snowfall. On August 5th, we celebrate the great miracle of the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome and its dedication to our Blessed Mother, who continually demonstrates her ardent and infinite love for each one of us.