Basilicas in the Catholic Church

In the Catholic Church, a basilica is a large and important church building designated as a basilica by the Pope and thereby distinguished for ceremonial purposes from other churches. It does not need to be a basilica in the architectural sense (a rectangular building with a central nave flanked by two or more longitudinal aisles). Basilicas are either major basilicas – of which there are four, all in the Diocese of Rome – or minor basilicas, of which there were 1,810 worldwide as of 2019.[1]

Floorplan of San Lorenzo in Damaso, a basilica in Rome. It is built in the basilica style: a rectangular building with a nave flanked by longitudinal aisles.

Numerous basilicas are notable shrines, often even receiving significant pilgrimages, especially among the many that were built above a confessio or the burial place of a martyr – although this term now usually designates a space before the high altar that is sunk lower than the main floor level (as in the case in St Peter's and St John Lateran in Rome) and that offer more immediate access to the burial places below. Some Catholic basilicas are Catholic pilgrimage sites, receiving tens of millions of visitors per year.[2][3] In December 2009 the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe set a new record with 6.1 million pilgrims during Friday and Saturday for the anniversary of Our Lady of Guadalupe.[4]

Churches designated as papal basilicas, in particular, possess a papal throne and a papal high altar, at which no one may celebrate Mass without the pope's permission.[5]