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Basilica: Catholic encyclopedia


I rewrote the material on the oriental basilica. Unfortunately I don't have the book I originally read this in. I do remember that the term had been coined by the time Josef Strzygowski (who used a different term but I don't remember what) was writing. That would date it to the early 20th or late 19th century. A google search turned up several pages using "oriental basilica" to describe basilicas with no clerestory, even outside the context of Armenia and Georgia. One web page even used the term to describe a church in Macedonia that lacked a clerestory. Since it seems to be in general use, I think it's safe to use the term without putting an explanation of its origins into the article. Isomorphic 17:48, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)

"Oriental" in this sense has a quaint ring to it now, which dated the term, to my ear. I wish we had Strzygowski's term for a sub-section title. --Wetman 22:21, 8 Dec 2004 (UTC)
If you're sufficiently interested, you can find the term along with some historiography in Christina Maranci's book Medieval Armenian Architecture: Constructions of Race and Nation. However, my impression was that Strzygowki's terminology hasn't gained general acceptance, and it would have been a German word anyway. This is a relatively specialized subject, and I'm not sure there is a single accepted term in English.
Most of the literature just calls them basilicas, distinguishing them from other church types in Armenia and Georgia, not from basilicas elsewhere. You could call them "Eastern basilicas", which would modernize the sound a bit, but I've never actually seen that term. Isomorphic 19:42, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Basiilica Bell. This bell is from the Saint Louis Cathedral in Saint Louis, Missouri. All Basilicas either have an actual bell similar to this or a painted version of the bell that is normally used in Papal processions.

This image isn't germane to the entry, and the caption is misleading. Even parish churches have such bells.

That particular bell, though, is one of the distinct privileges of a minor basilica. Every minor basilica has one. The other privliege is the presence of the ombrellino in the church. An image like that would be useful, but maybe a more generic image? Pmadrid 12:10, 12 July 2005 (UTC)

A basilica floorplan would be more useful than snapshots of everybody's favorite local minor basilica. They do multiply like John-Paul saints.--Wetman 06:54, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Usage of "Pope as Bishop of Rome"[edit]

The Lateran Basilica is the cathedral of the Pope. He has no other cathedral. To say that the Lateran is his cathedral "as Bishop of Rome" is misleading, as it implies that he has another cathedral or principal church for the exercise of some other distinction. It is also redundant, as "Pope" is simply a nickname for "Bishop of Rome", which is his formal title and from which all his other titles are derived. Pmadrid 17:52, 9 Jun 2005 (UTC)

World's Largest Church[edit]

Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, Yamoussoukro, Ivory Cost. Constructed in 1989 and has seating for 18,000 parishioners. [1] Rklawton 03:14, 29 March 2006 (UTC)

Patriarchal basilicas[edit]

The vatican only mentions the four major basilicas as patriarchal. See vatican homepage -- 04:21, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

There are only four major basilicas (our article previously said five) which are all patriarchal as well, but a page of 'usefull information' can hardly be meant as a full listing, and probably limits itself to Rome (it's the Vatican site, not Universal or Italian church). Fastifex 10:00, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

I was thinking of St Lawrence outside the Walls, in Rome. -- 20:59, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

More proof that St Lawrence outside the Walls is not a patriarchal basilica. Note that the link is to the vatican. [2] -- 07:33, 17 April 2006 (UTC)

But see the link here: [3]. Scroll down aways. Rwflammang 21:45, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

Minor basilicas[edit]

There is no mention of the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest basilica in the Western Hemisphere and the 7th or 8th largest Catholic church in the world. [4]

First basilica in the United States[edit]

Listing the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, Minnesota as the first basilica in the United States of America is incorrect as it was proclaimed on 1926-01-18 by by Pope Pius XI in 1926, while St. Adalbert's in Buffalo NY was proclaimed in 1907 by Pius X, his predecessor. This is embarassingly shown on the basilica list on the bottom of the external links page at: The website for St. Mary's also mirros this error.

St. Adalbert's in Buffalo does not appear to be equipped with a conopaeum and tintinnabulum. Is this correct? (Are there better pictures?) Group29 (talk) 17:07, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
Also, according to what is on St. Adalbert's web site, it says that Pope Pius X, "by an authenticated document, had adjoined the Church of St. Adalbert to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, thereby granting "in perpetuo" the privilege of enjoying all the indulgences and spiritual favors which the Vatican Basilica enjoys." There are a number of articles on the Save St. Adalbert's web site which outline that even between the experts, there is confusion on what the basilica status of the church is. Group29 (talk) 17:36, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
I had a conversation with a sister at the Diocese of Buffalo office today that put me on the right track. Please see here (keep in mind it's from 1959). It turns out St. Adalbert's is affiliated with a major basilica - St. Peter's - which does not make it a basilica. In particular, "Of course, a church need not be a minor basilica in order to ask and receive affiliation; but in no case does this indulgence — affiliation with a major basilica endow the recipient church — as some have thought — with the title or rank of minor basilica" and "At times the title basilica has been applied to other American churches in addition to the twelve we list. If they merit the title, the papal document conferring the rank has at least never been published in the A.S.S. (1865-1908) or in the A.A.S. (1909- ). More likely the claim has been based on their obtaining indulgence-affiliation with one of the major basilicas. This is the case with St. John the Apostle and Evangelist in St. Louis and Old St. John's in Chicago, both affiliated with St. John Lateran; and St. Adalbert, Buffalo, affiliated with St. Peter's. As we have already pointed out, affiliation does not confer the rank or prerogatives of a minor basilica." So, St. Adalbert's is not a basilica, making St. Mary's in Minneapolis the first in the US. From what I hear, there has been some loss in the distinction between being affiliated with a major basilica and being conferred the title of minor basilica. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Cryptic star (talkcontribs) 03:20, 5 August 2011 (UTC)
I note that Adalbert's web site appears to lack a coat of arms in any prominent place, which is one of the stated perogatives of a minor basilica. Also, their decree of 1907 predates the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which changed some things. Also, if you follow the link at, you will see that it says "basilica status uncertain." At any rate, our speculation here is original research and is not permitted in the article. Our best bet is to find a reliable secondary source that explains the status of these basilicas. I am not sure if the GCatholic site qualifies as reliable, based on my observation above. Second best bet is to explain the conflict in the article and cite the primary sources, the basilica websites, that both make the claim to first basilica. Alternatively, we could just remove the line from the article and leave a comment in the wikitext to see the talk page about why it's silent on that point. Elizium23 (talk) 04:20, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Parish Church?[edit]

The article says that St. Peter's is a parish church. I think this is incorrect. The Parish church of Vatican City is St. Anne's. St. Peter's is a shrine, not a parish church. Can someone give me a reference to St. Peter's as a parish?

St. Anne's is the Vatican parish. See the link here: [5]. Rwflammang 13:23, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Hagia Sophia?[edit]

Doesn't this belong in here somewhere since it was the largest church in the world from the 530 AD until it was turned into mosque in 1453 (and would still have been the largest church 100 years after). At its time is was one of the most advanced achievements in engineering. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:21, 12 September 2008 (UTC)

No a Basilica is nominated by the Pope so must be a Roman Catholic church, while Hagia Sophia is Orthodox (and remarkable) Hugo999 (talk) 12:29, 12 February 2009 (UTC)

Basilica category[edit]

As a Basilica is a Roman Catholic church, Basilicas in Austria (say) should go to Roman Catholic churches in Austria (and to Basilicas in Europe) as the next category up, not to Churches in Austria Hugo999 (talk) 07:38, 4 May 2009 (UTC)

Non-catholic basilicas[edit]

Many of the comments on this article seem to take it for granted that every basillca must be a catholic church.This ignores the statement in the article that it also has an architectural meaning. This can include churches of other denominations and also non-religious buildings in that form. It would seem more satisfactory to distinguish the Catholic variety as 'Catholic Basilicas'. Waysider1925 (talk) 15:09, 27 September 2009 (UTC)

Question about St Lawrence[edit]

I have made some minor copy editing changes and tidied up some (not all) of the links. More work is needed. But I have a question: in the second-last paragraph under the heading "Major or papal basilicas (in Rome)", it says:

St John Lateran was associated with Rome, St Peter's with Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), St Paul's with Alexandria (in Egypt), St Mary Major with Antioch (the Levant) and St Lawrence with the junior, Jerusalem.

What is meant by "St Lawrence with the junior, Jerusalem"? Ondewelle (talk) 13:16, 29 October 2010 (UTC)

Three articles[edit]

It might be better, so separate this article in three articles. "Basilica minor" and "Basilica maior" should be outsourced (watch de:Basilika (the building) and de:Basilica minor / de:Basilica maior (the title)). --JWBE (talk) 17:05, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

The work is done: Basilica minor and Basilica maior --JWBE (talk) 11:43, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Section title: "Major or papal basilicas (in Rome)"[edit]

This section title is awkward. Where is the other section: "Major or papal basilicas (outside Rome)"? (See the point?) What's more, it has broken a couple of redirects from other pages. To correct, we may change one section title or many redirects. So, I'm changing it to "Major or papal basilicas". Please discuss before changing this section title further. Thanks. Kace7 (talk) 14:13, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

What about taking this part and outsourcing it by creating an article "Basilica maior" like: de:Basilica maior ? --JWBE (talk) 08:21, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I admit the title is not clear but tries to reflect a simple fact. All the 4 papal basilicas are located in Rome. The title was correct.
I would suggest to outsource most of the article to a new article about classifications of catholic churches.
All the rest are de facto minor basilicas. However, some ancient churches are named basilicas since immemorial times and are often classified as "Immemorial basilicas", without the attributes of minor basilica. The term "Major" is no longer used during Benedict XVI papacy but things could change in the future. Patriarchal basilicas (all 5 in Rome) and 2 in Italy (Venice St Mark's) are now called Pontifical basilicas since the election of Benedict XVI. Reasons are unclear to me as no official statement was issued to my knowledge. One sentence missing in the Annuario Pontificio changed everything.
Confusion arises from the fact that a lot people thinks that the title "Basilica" refers to the "ranking" which is not the case. Catholic churches or buildings are simply classified: cathedral churches, (parish) churches, churches, oratories (or private chapels). In principle, there is no real ranking, churches are .... churches. Sometimes, the name of "temple" is used (cfr Sagrada Familia) for catholic worships places. In the case of Gaudi's building it was the only denomination acceptable as the building was not consecrated yet and therefore could not be called church.
Besides that, some churches (or other sacred places like cemeteries) are known as shrines by reason of special devotion frequented by the faithful as pilgrims.
That's it for the Canon Law ( TITLE I: SACRED PLACES (Cann. 1205 - 1243)).
The qualification "minor basilica" is a title received by a church from the Pope (cfr its attributes). The term "patriarchal" basilicas refers to ancient basilicas. Technically, you could have churches which are at the same cathedral churches, minor basilica and shrines (national or not). For example, the Pontifical Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Pompeii is cathedral church, pontifical minor basilica, shrine at the same time.
Papal basilica is the new name of Major basilicas. Contrary to what is stated in the article, the basilicas in Padova, Loreto,... are all "Pontifical minor basilicas" and not Papal IMHO.
But I am a bit lost with the wording "Pontifical basilicas". The change of the name for the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi went together with a reorganization done by Pope Benedict XVI who took over the management of the church from the Fransiscan order, if I remember well (exact details to be confirmed and proper sources to be mentioned)
Suggestions to improve the article
# Suppress the gallery. There are 1580+ minor basilicas outside Italy and 530+ in Italy. The article should stricly refer to List of basilicas and List of basilicas in Italy instead.
# Create a new page: classification of catholic churches. Ranking is not the most appropriate term because, if you ask people which church is the most important, usually it comes down to defending is own local (Basilica, cathedral, shrine, parish) church ;-)
Remarks, suggestions will be appreciated. --Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 13:18, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
As regards the section title: it may have been factual, but some facts are better left to the text. ... I think a short, new page may be warranted. The ranking and classification of churches is confusing. Then several articles could all refer to this new page, rather than clutter themselves up with trying to distinguish between this and that. ... I don't think the gallery is a problem. It's a nice touch. Better to respect that work. Kace7 (talk) 15:16, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
The gallery will be outsourced by creating the article "Basilica minor", so the work will be completely kept. --JWBE (talk) 15:42, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
The gallery is now in Basilica minor. --JWBE (talk) 11:42, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Basilica: how to outsource Major and minor basilica[edit]

Copied from User_talk:Afernand74#Basilica

Hello, I have just created a page in my working space User:JWBE/Basilica minor to create the articles "Basilica minor" and "Basilica maior". :The germen an even some other-language articles will be used to separate the facts. If it will be finished, the part "Ecclesiastical basilicas" :will be very shortened. With kind regards --JWBE (talk) 10:56, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
I have been looking for while into this classification. The problem is how to handle the confusion in nomenclature. Specially when it comes to Papal vs Pontifical because you have at the same pontifical prelatures getting into the picture.
The best systematic classification and structure have found until now is
Basilicas. Historical and Canonical Development. GABRIEL CHOW HOI-YAN
The table of contents is IMHO the best canvas possible.
  1. Patriarchal --> Papal (during BXVI papacy at least)
  2. Major
  3. Minor
  4. Special Categories Of Basilicas
This classification is chronological as the first minor basilica was proclaimed in the 19th century.
This systematic classification will help expanding the article.
What do you think?
--Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 11:42, 12 November 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by JWBE (talkcontribs)
Basilica maior had just been created. --JWBE (talk) 14:53, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
thank you for creating the page. The main problem I have is that is not 100% correct IMHO to say, as stated in German wikipedia, that Major Basilica = Patriarchal Basilica because not all the Patriarchal basilicas are major basilicas. A counter-example is St Mark in Venice. The statement in the German article is contradicted by one of his source:
Kardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo kündigte an, dass die vier „Basilicae Maiores“ (St. Johannes im Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul vor den Mauern und St. Maria Maggiore) von „Patriarchalbasiliken“ in „Päpstliche Basiliken“ umbenannt werden. Darüber hinaus berichtete der Kardinal vom Programm der Neuordnung der Anlage der Basilika St. Paul vor den Mauern.
There are only 4 major basilicas (see Cathency They happen to also have the title of Patriarchal basilicas together with the (Minor) Basilica of St Laurent outside the walls in Rome, the two churches from the Franciscans.
Your comments are welcome --Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 15:24, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
I think, that the outsourcing in "Basilica minor" and "Basilica maior" will help to short the article "Basilica" to its main architectual intention. If both articles exist, then they could be developed. I agree to the problem Patriarchal Basilica/Papal Basilica/Basilica maior, so your suggestion of the four chapters looks good. If the article "Basilica minor" exist, even the gallery will be then automatically outsourced. This help the main arcticle "Basilica" to appear better. I would be pleased, if you could do some edits in User:JWBE/Basilica minor. With kind regards --JWBE (talk) 15:38, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Basilica minor (including the gallery) had also been outsourced, but there is still work to do. Feel free to improve or rearrange the article. With kind regards and many thanks --JWBE (talk) 13:19, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that having a separate article that can be linked to the architectural basilica is a good way to go. However:
My opinion is that the article {{Basilica major]] and the article Basilica minor ought to be combined under the single heading Basilica (Ecclesiastical) or some such.
Having two articles is overkill and leads to confusion rather than clarity. The fact is that all those "minor" basilicas are just known as "basilica", with the notion of "minor" being a technicality that is only relevant to the notion of "major" and then not essential,
I'm not suggesting that you scrap the term "minor" which is a proper designation, but rather than for the purpose of finding out what a basilica is, "Basilica minor" is not a useful main heading.
Amandajm (talk) 23:28, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
It may seem to be overkill. You could have a single article with the following structure
*Patriarchal --> Papal (during BXVI papacy at least)
*Minor (after 1783) + Immemorial (before 1783)
*Special Categories Of minor Basilicas (Pontifical)
The main limitations of this structure is that is biased IMHO. It is a catholic classification/hierarchy/ranking. If you want to discuss the recognition (or not) of the Major/patriarchal/ancient basilicas by the rest of the christian churches, separating both articles would make sense.
What do you think?--Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 18:09, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

@Afernand74: As this discussion affects the article "Basilica" itself it should be copied to Talk:Basilica. What do You think? --JWBE (talk) 22:29, 14 November 2010 (UTC) Done. --Alberto Fernandez Fernandez (talk) 09:24, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Looking backwards[edit]

The article overall seems to be stuck in the Middle ages somehow. I added a section on modern basilicas, but the section on the minor basilicas in Italy seems to be giving them undue attention, given that more people (say 6 million) visit the Basilica of Guadalupe on a single weekend in December each year than those minor Italian sites all year, combined. History2007 (talk) 01:59, 28 June 2011 (UTC)

List of basilicas - Basilicas in Portugal[edit]

The article states that there are only 6 basilicas in Portugal, but i know several more which are known as basilicas in this region alone (Braga, Guimaraes and Póvoa), the listed basilicas is because they have been granted that title by the Holly See? --Pedro (talk) 09:53, 26 July 2011 (UTC)

Importance of the rankings?[edit]

Based on the discussion above about first basilica, I thought that the article does not explain the importance of the rankings. A reader ma ask: So, what is the big deal there? Is a minor Basilica less holy or sanct than a basilica? Is a basilica just a pretty church? Are masses said in a non-basilica not good enough? Do prayer petitions in a basilica receive more favorable responses from God? So what is the big deal here? I think that type of straight forward question needs to have a straightforward answer in the article. History2007 (talk) 15:06, 5 August 2011 (UTC)

Removed sentence in"Christianization of the Roman basilica"[edit]

I removed the following sentence from the section "Christianization of the Roman basilica":

Famous existing examples of churches constructed in the ancient basilica style include the church at Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai and the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna.

San Vitale is quite definitely not a basilica in the architectural sense, about the church at Saint Catherine's Monastery I don't know, but the term is not used in the article. Besides, there are already a few examples higher up in the section.—Austriacus (talk) 14:52, 1 January 2012 (UTC)

Antiquity of St. John Lateran's[edit]

St. John Lateran's is erroneously indicated as being later than others. Instead the palace itself was built in the second century A.D., and was given to the Bishop of Rome by Constantine at least by the Edict of Peace (313), because in 313 a synod of bishops was held there. It was consecrated as a christian basilica in 324, so beginning 4th century not end! Lwangaman (talk) 09:26, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

Non religious baslica's?[edit]

Why are there no mention of non religious basilica's? This article seems to be bias towards the catholic church and it's use of the word. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:18, 27 May 2012 (UTC)

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