Alessandro Agolanti and Domenico Ghirlandaio, ,
The Foundation of the Church of St. Mary Major

Stained glass
Capella Maggiore, Santa Maria Novella, Florence

As the legend goes, one summer in the 4th century the Virgin Mary appeared to a Roman patrician and told him to build a church where snow had fallen. It was August 5th, but snow had indeed fallen on the Esquiline Hill. Pope Liberius authorized the construction of a church there, and it still stands today (Butler, III, 265).

In the stained glass, the Virgin Mary opens her mantle in the manner of Our Lady of Mercy images and snow falls from it in profusion. Below, the patrician points to where the snow has fallen and the Pope digs at it with a shovel. Some versions of the legend add the patrician's wife, and some images reflect those versions. Here the man seems to be acting alone, although a woman can be seen with the bystanders on the right.

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Read more about the miracle of the snow.

Photographed at the site by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.