A canonical title of honor bestowed upon church structures in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches because of their antiquity or function as worldwide centers of worship due to their relationship with a notable saint, an important historical event, or, in the Orthodox...
A basilica is a huge and significant church. The term can also refer to an Ancient Roman structure used for legislation and discussions. The term "basilica" is Latin, derived from the Greek "Basilike Stoa." The Pope has granted the Roman Catholic Church the permission to use such name.
In Christianity, a basilica is any church building that is particularly important or sacred. The word is often used interchangeably with cathedral. However, a basilica is not necessarily a large church, and a cathedral can be a basilica if it meets the requirements for that title. A basilica is usually larger than a parish church but smaller than a major cathedral.
The first churches built by Christ were small, probably no more than two rooms open on the floor with a roof made of wood and canvas. As the community grew, new problems needed to be addressed. How could people pray together when there wasn't enough space for everyone to get up and walk around? What about incense? How could they burn incense in a small room?
These issues led to the construction of larger and larger churches. In some cases, existing buildings were modified and increased in size. New structures were built from the ground up with these sizes in mind. These new churches were often dedicated to the same saints as their smaller counterparts and sometimes included aisles and chapels to accommodate the growing number of Christians.
According to Catholic legend, the basilica is the last resting place of Saint Peter, the main apostle of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome (Pope). Saint Peter's grave is said to be exactly under the basilica's high altar. The current location of Peter's tomb was discovered by Pope Benedict VIII in 1048 during construction of the current basilica. An ancient inscription on a stone coffin found near the site of the discovery confirms that it contains the remains of a man named Petrus.
In addition to being the head of the Roman Church, the Pope is also the bishop of Rome, or more specifically, the Vatican City State, the small city-state inside Italy's capital city where St. Peter's Basilica is located. The Pope can trace his lineage back to King David of Israel and therefore considers himself to be a descendant of Jacob and of Abraham. Catholics believe that because Peter was chosen by God to lead His church, he has a special relationship with him even after his death. Thus, it is believed that anyone who visits the tomb of St. Peter will be able to receive spiritual assistance from him.
St. Peter's Basilica is the largest church in the world by square footage. It was built between 320 and 360 AD by the Roman emperor Constantine as a memorial to Christ.
Basilicas of lesser importance The advantages associated with the minor basilica designation, which is bestowed by papal brief, include a certain priority over other churches and the right of the conopaeum (a baldachin resembling an umbrella; also called umbraculum, ombrellino, papilio, sinicchio, etc.), to be made of gold instead of silver.
The term "minor basilica" was introduced by Pope Paul III in the 1550s in order to give special status to some churches that were then undergoing construction or restoration. Although today's Catholics recognize only seven minor basilicas in Italy and one in America, at the time they were established there were probably more than a hundred churches that could have been awarded this title.
In Europe, minor basilicas are St. Martin's in London, England; St. Stephen's in Vienna, Austria; St. Mary Magdalene in Bruges, Belgium; St. Mary Overie in Southwark, England; and St. Swithun's in Winchester, England. In North America, the only minor basilica is Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome, Italy.
A minor basilica is any church that has been granted special status by decree of the pope. These churches have precedence over regular parish churches and can use the title "Minor Basilica". However, although the title gives them special recognition, it does not necessarily imply greater glory or dignity for their priests.