title given to the four highest-ranking Roman Catholic churches
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Major basilica (Latin: Basilica maior, Basilicae maiores in plural) is the title given to the four highest-ranking Roman Catholic churches. All other churches that have the title of a basilica are minor basilicas (Latin: Basilica minor).
To this class belong the four great ancient churches of Rome:
- St. John Lateran, also called the Lateran Basilica, is the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. It is the only one called an "archbasilica". Its full official name is "Papal Basilica of Saint John Lateran]], Archbasilica of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran, Cathedral of Rome".
- St. Peter's Basilica, also called the Vatican Basilica, is a major pilgrimage site, built over the burial place of Saint Peter. Perhaps the largest church in the world, it is used for most of the chief religious ceremonies in which the Pope participates. Its official name is the "Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican".
- St. Paul Outside the Walls, also known as the Ostian Basilica because it is situated on the road that led to Ostia, is built over the burial place of Paul the Apostle. Its official name is the "Papal Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls".
- St. Mary Major, also called the Liberian Basilica because the original building (not the present one) was attributed to Pope Liberius, is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whence its name of Saint Mary Major, i.e. the Greater. Its official name is the "Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major".