Upper Basilica


On entering the bright upper Basilica, it is immediately evident that there is more space than in the lower Basilica. All the iconography is dedicated to the celebration of Christ, Mary and the Franciscan order.

The lower area can be reached via two spiral stairways located at the sides of the entrance. The main entrance is located to the north of the building, in front of the large roof terrace that protects the archaeological remains of the ancient village and connects the square of the Basilica to the convent and parish space.

There are two doors located to the north: one on the left, known as the Mater Christi or the "Ecclesia ex Circumcisione", the other, to the right, known as the "Mater Ecclesiae" or the "Ecclesia ex Gentibus".

The tympanum on the left door portrays the nativity scene in glazed ceramic while the one on the right door shows Mary with her cloak open, welcoming the faithful. Both high reliefs are a work by Angelo Biancini.

The bronze shutters, a work by the Dutch sculptor Niel Steenbergen, depict the two strains of the church: Jewish and non-Israelite. On the left door, that represents the church of Jewish origin, there is a representation of the tree of Jesse, the Annunciation, the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Call of Peter. In the second, the one on the right, there are biblical images that recall the non-Israelite strain of the church: the experience of the prophet Jonah, the visit of the Three Kings, Pentecost and the conversion of Saul.

The octagonal baptistery is located outside in front of the door. The floor of the square is decorated with the representation of the Canticle of the Sun of Saint Francis of Assisi and, with other symbols that recall the Franciscan spirituality.

The space inside the basilica is bathed in bright light and the vibrant colours of the various Marian images that decorate the church. The light enters from the dome and the wide windows inspired by Mary.

The central apse is decorated by the majestic mosaic with the representation of the statement of the Creed that declares the Church to be "One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic".

The theme of the Virgin, Mother of God, is present in lots of the decorations: even in the bronze candelabra located in the presbytery where the history of salvation from the origins to the Roman church is depicted. The side apses contain the chapels dedicated to the "Most Blessed Sacrament" and the "Custody of the Holy Land" with the Franciscan saints.

The walls of the Church depict a celebration of Mary: images of the Virgin coming from various sanctuaries of the world follow to mark out the Incarnation of Christ, as presented in all the cultures of the world. The panels come from various countries of the world. On the right wall: Cameroun, Hungary, Brazil, the United States, Poland, Spain, Italy. On the left wall: England, Australia, Argentina, Venezuela, Lebanon, Japan, Canada.

The windows of the south and west façades represent various elements of the Annunciation and are realised by the Parisian artist Max Ingrand: the shape of the pointed arch reflects the style than can be found in old Gothic cathedrals.

On the marble floor, a work by the artist Adriano Alessandrini, the Marian dogma defined and privileges granted over the centuries by the Council Fathers and the Popes, starting with the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, in which the divine maternity of Mary was established, are depicted.

Finally, we can turn our attention to the starlit oculus that opens onto the remains of the Grotto of the Annunciation.

Upper Basilica