Each year on 5 August Rome's Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore celebrates La Madonna della Neve (Our Lady of the Snows) by recreating a miracle snowfall during the height of summer.
According to legend, a fourth-century Roman couple wished to donate their possessions to the church, and prayed for divine guidance. On the night of 4/5 August in the year 352 the Virgin Mary appeared to the couple in a vision, telling them that a miracle would reveal a site where they should build a new church.
That same night — so the story goes — a miraculous fall of snow landed on a hill in the Esquiline district of Rome. Pope Liberius is said to have travelled to the snow-covered site, tracing an outline of the planned church whose construction was financed by the wealthy couple.
Although there is no historical basis for the story, the event is still celebrated every year at the basilica with a light show on 5 August, usually between 21.00 and midnight.
The highlight of the evening is the surreal spectacle of snow-like foam falling from the sky.