st. peter's basilica
, vatican city
, a major basilica
of the roman catholic church
, is a central-plan building, enlarged by a basilical nave
the latin word basilica (derived from greek: βασιλική στοά, royal stoa, the tribunal chamber of a king) has three distinct applications in modern english.
originally, the word was used to refer to an ancient roman public building, where courts were held, as well as serving other official and public functions. it usually had the door at one end and a slightly raised platform and an apse at the other, where the magistrate or other officials were seated. the basilica was centrally located in every roman town, usually adjacent to the main forum. subsequently, the basilica was not built near a forum but adjacent to a palace and was known as a "palace basilica".
secondly, as the roman empire adopted christianity, the major church buildings were typically constructed with this basic architectural plan and thus it became popular throughout europe. it continues to be used in an architectural sense to describe rectangular buildings with a central nave and aisles, and usually a raised platform at the opposite end from the door. in europe and the americas the basilica remained the most common architectural style for churches of all christian denominations, though this building plan has become less dominant in new buildings since the latter 20th century.
thirdly, the term refers to an official designation of a certain kind of church in the roman catholic church: a large and important place of worship that has been given special ceremonial rights by the pope, whatever its architectural plan. these are divided into: major basilicas—numbering only four, all of which are ancient churches located within the diocese of rome—and minor basilicas—found all around the world and which, as of 2019 , number 1,810. these major and minor basilicas are commonly simply referred to as basilicas.
some catholic basilicas are catholic pilgrimage sites, receiving tens of millions of visitors per year. 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.