Santa Maria Maggiore stands on the site of a temple to the goddess Cybele. According to a 13th-century legend, the first church was built here by Pope Liberius (352-66), on the site of an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The legend has it that the Virgin appeared to Pope Liberius and the patrician Giovanni Patrizio on August 4, 352 (or 358), instructing them to build a church on the Esquiline Hill
Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, said to be the most important church dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Western Christendom. The columns are not all alike. Most are marble. Four are granite and are said to have been taken from a pagan temple to Juno nearby.