What Is An Affiliation With A Major Basilica?

Long gone are the days when I thought “basilica” was just a neat title for a fancy church. Since starting this blog, we’ve covered basilicas in terms of their architecture as well as their rank. Now, I’m heading down the rabbit hole of affiliations with major basilicas.

Being affiliated with a major basilica is a new concept for me. It’s a bit nuanced and seems to have fallen out of style in recent times. There’s a book that mentions this idea, but the excerpt provided doesn’t include that particular section. After some more digging around, I found this article from 1959. It’s a great primer on minor basilicas in the US, and I encourage you to read the entire article. Just keep in mind the year – I was initially shocked to hear we only have 12 minor basilicas in the US.

In short, a church can petition for an affiliation with a major basilica. If granted, the church in question can offer those indulgences granted by the major basilica. While the article doesn’t give an explicit rationale for this, I assume it’s so those who are unable to visit the major basilicas (financially or otherwise) may still have access to the indulgences granted at a less prohibitive cost. If I can’t afford to go to Rome, but I could afford to go to a US church affiliated with one of the major basilicas, then I could partake in the same indulgences that may be unavailable to me otherwise. The article gives a much more thorough explanation on the concept:

Since basilican rank involves no spiritual favors, Msgr. Nabuco suggests that a minor basilica obtain for itself, by “affiliation” with a major basilica, a right to that basilica’s indulgences. Not only the four major Roman basilicas, but also the basilica at Loreto are allowed to grant this participation. … In acceding to the request, the granting authorities often require the renewal of the petition every fifteen years under pain of lapse. The list of available indulgences which they furnish should be posted where the faithful can easily read it, and, if the major basilica insists, a tablet should be set up in the affiliated church to commemorate the affiliation. Of course, a church need not be a minor basilica in order to ask and receive affiliation; but in no case does this indulgence — affiliation with a major basilica endow the recipient church — as some have thought — with the title or rank of minor basilica.

As mentioned above, being a minor basilica is mostly about title and indicating to others the historical and spiritual importance of a church. Minor basilicas are still lower than cathedrals and don’t carry privileges aside from some symbolic items. Likewise, to be affiliated with a major basilica does not confer the title of basilica on a church, but it does confer the indulgences of the affiliated major basilica.

Where is this seen in the US? From the article I linked to above, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist in St. Louis and Old St. John’s in Chicago are both affiliated with St. John Lateran, and St. Adalbert’s in Buffalo is affiliated with St. Peter’s. Of course, these are all churches that have been affiliated since 1959 at the latest, and they may have lapsed in renewing their petition. I couldn’t find a complete list of (or really anything about) these types of churches online – anyone know of any others?

I must say that this was an interesting concept to stumble in to. I’d be interested in seeing if there are any churches in the US (or even abroad) that still partake in affiliation with a major basilica and actively promote the indulgences associated with the privilege. It seems like it would be a useful resource for the faithful.

Check back tomorrow for how I got started studying up on all this in the first place! It’s an interesting story. Edit: you can find the follow-up post here

Update: As I’m reviewing this the night before I publish this post, I happened to see in my Google Alerts on basilicas that the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin has just become affiliated with St. Mary Major in Rome. What are the odds that a church that is within a day’s drive of me takes on a relatively unknown status I was about to publish a blog post on, questioning whether it’s even still promoted?

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7 thoughts on “What Is An Affiliation With A Major Basilica?

  1. Pingback: WEDNESDAY MORNING EDITION | ThePulp.it

  2. Pingback: St. Adalbert’s – Is It A Basilica? | Here Is The Church…

  3. Thank you for mentioning the new affiliation between the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. We hope you have an opportunity to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe soon! Send us a note when you’re planning on coming and we would be happy to provide you with a tour of the grounds.

    • My boyfriend and I definitely have plans to make it out there at some point. We’ll be sure to drop you a line when we’re heading out that way.

  4. What a wonderful pursuit! My wife and I have sometimes talked about trying to get to all 68 Basilicas in the US as well. Its great to see someone else tackling this well – and especially, great to see all the research you have done, as we were confused about “affiliated basilicas” ourselves!

    • So glad to see that someone else is as crazy in we are in considering doing this. ^_^ I’d highly recommend doing it! I’ve visited five on my own thus far, and have absolutely enjoyed every minute of it.

  5. Pingback: Random Thoughts Roundup « Here is the Church…

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