Today, August 5, marks the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, known in older versions of the Roman liturgical calendar as the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Snows, or simply as Our Lady of the Snows.

The miracle, which inspired the construction of the papal Marian basilica, involved a miraculous snowfall in Rome on Aug. 5 in the year 358.

The name came from the ancient legend that during the pontificate of Liberius, a Roman patrician named John and his wife had no heirs. As a result, they vowed to give all their possessions to the Virgin Mary, and prayed that she would show them how to dispense of their treasures. Then, on the night of Aug. 5, 358, in the middle of the hot Roman summer, snow fell on the summit of the city's Esquiline hill. In obedience to a vision of Mary the couple had that night, they built a basilica in the same spot that the snow fell.
In honor of the special day, a shower of white flowers is dropped from the ceiling of the Basilica, now known as Saint Mary Major, to commemorate the "Miracle of the Snow" in 358.

Among the four major papal basilicas in Rome, St. Mary Major is the only one that maintained its original structure. Mosaics dating back to the 5th century can be seen in the central nave of the basilica, which also houses the relic of the Holy Crib from the birth of Christ.