Friday, May 14, 2010


There are different designations for church buildings. Most are familiar with the parish church or cathedral. Another distinction that may be bestowed upon one of these structures is the title basilica. There are major basilicas (St. Sebastian is Rome is one such church – oh yes, and St. Peter’s too) and minor basilicas which account for most churches with the title. Such a church is given the designation by the Holy Father himself and is a place of particular religious or historic importance. There are 56 basilicas in the Unites States.

If the front sign should blow off of the building there are a number of ways in which to tell that a church building is indeed a basilica. One way to tell is the ombrellino, which you may recall from last week as an umbrella like contraption that is also used at times for covering the Blessed Sacrament in procession. In this particular application it always appears in the colors of gold and red, the traditional colors of the papacy. At one time the obrellino would be held over the pope as he traveled about on horseback. Now it is an ornamental object placed to the right of the main altar whose symbolic purpose is to signify a building a basilica and is open when the pope is present and remains closed when he is not.

If you are wondering if you are in a major or minor basilica and nobody is watching and you do not see security cameras or a Swiss Guard with a halyard (er - I mean Halberd - thanks W. - so much for spell check,) go up and touch it. If it is of velvet, you are in a major basilica, if it is silk; minor.


Matt W said...
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Matt W said...

I didn't know the Swiss Guard had a navy!

Pat said...

Notre Dame has the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Not sure how long the church has been designated as such, but it is quite beautiful.