The April, 2019 fire brought the Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris into limelight all across the world. It is said to be home to many important relics including the Crown of Thorn traditionally believed to have been worn by the Lord on the cross. My question is: Why has the Catholic Church not extended the status of a Major Basilica to Notre Dame Cathedral ?

  • There are many important churches worldwide, but only 4 Major Basilicas. Why aren't any other ones "Major"?
    – eques
    Jan 9, 2020 at 14:11

2 Answers 2


There are only 4 Major Basilica's and they're all in Rome. They all have feast days celebrating their dedications (Which might be one less saint to celebrate). They have a special blessing associated with a pilgrimage to each of them (and others, in Rome). Rosaries depicting the 4 major basilicas would be obselete.

A better question might be, why isn't it a Minor Basilica.


Why is the Notre Dame Cathedral not a Major Basilica?

Only the following four basilicas are major basilicas:

  • St. Peter’s Basilica contain the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles himself.
  • St. Paul’s Basilica is the resting place of the relics of the Apostle St. Paul. (These first two basilicas contain the remains of the two Pillars of the Church.
  • Basilica of St John Lateran is the cathedral church of Rome and the official seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. As such the Basilica contains the papal throne, although the pope rarely visits and lives over at the Vatican.
  • Basilica of Saint Mary Majorit is the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. The original church, which was replaced by that of Pope Sixtus III, was built during the pontificate of Pope Liberius (352–366), and is thus sometimes known as the Basilica Liberii or Basilica Liberiana.

There is more!

All four of Rome’s Major Basilicas are part of Vatican territory. That is right, there are considered part of the Holy See. These four basilicas are the unique major basilicas in Catholic Culture. All other basilicas are minor basilicas.

Extraterritorial property

  • Archbasilica of Saint John Lateran (Arcibasilica di San Giovanni in Laterano)

  • Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore)

  • Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura) (the complex includes also the Benedictine monastery, the Pontifical Oratory of San Paolo and the Pontifical Beda College).

  • Lateran Palace, Lateran University, the Scala Santa and adjoining buildings,

  • Palace of St Callixtus (Palazzo San Callisto) - home of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

  • Certain buildings on the Gianicolo Hill, namely the Pontifical Urbaniana University, the Pontifical North American College, and the Bambino Gesù Hospital. Palazzo della Cancelleria between the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Campo de' Fiori.

  • Palazzo di Propaganda Fide (the Palace of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples) in the Piazza di Spagna.

  • Palace of the Holy Office - home of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Piazza del Sant'Uffizio and adjacent to the Basilica of St. Peter.

  • Palace of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches (formerly Palazzo dei Convertendi in Piazza Scossacavalli), in Via della Conciliazione (rione of Borgo)

  • Palazzo Pio in Via della Conciliazione (in exchange for Palazzo della Dataria)

  • Palace of the Vicariate (also called Palazzo Mattei Mascerotti) in Via della Pigna off the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II near the Piazza del Gesù

  • Pontifical Minor Roman Seminary

  • Campo Santo Teutonico

  • The larger part of Paul VI Audience Hall (the rostrum with the papal throne, however, is part of Vatican territory).

  • I think this is not correct. The Major Basilicas are granted extraterritorial status because of their importance not that they are important because they have extraterritorial status
    – eques
    Jan 9, 2020 at 14:10
  • yes but what I mean is this doesn't answer "why".
    – eques
    Jan 9, 2020 at 21:26

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