|A basilica is a title given by the Pope to a church building, conferring special privileges
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In the Roman Catholic Church, Basilica is a title of honour given to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as centres of worship (pilgrimage, veneration of relics). The title of basilica gives precedence over the churches of a diocese, and sometimes of a region, with the exception of the cathedral.
The different types of basilicas
There are four major basilicas, all located exclusively in Rome.
- St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, home to the tomb of St Peter;
- St John Lateran Basilica, the cathedral of Rome and the world;
- Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, with the relic of the Crib;
- Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, where the tomb of Saint Paul is located.
Numerous churches around the world, including eleven in Rome, have been called minor basilicas since time immemorial, or have been given the title by the Pope. In general, these are shrines that are the visible goal of an important or ancient pilgrimage.
This honour depends solely on the will of the Pope, who grants it according to certain considerations:
- age of the church ;
- a request from the diocesan bishop
- the absence of opposition from cathedral or collegiate chapters whose rights and privileges might be infringed.
A basilica is not necessarily a cathedral (and vice versa). For example, the basilica of Saint-Nicolas-de-Portis a basilica, but despite its considerable size, it is not a cathedral (i.e. it is not the seat of the diocesan bishop). In contrast, Saint-Pierre cathedral in Rennes is not a basilica, while the neighbouring Saint-Sauveur basilica in Rennes is more modest in size. A basilica can also be a cathedral, like the basilica of Saint-Denis .
At 31 December 2020, there were 1,863 basilicas in the world, including 584 in Italy, 174 in France, 156 in Poland and 130 in Spain.