One of the major Marian celebrations of the Church calendar, the Solemnity of the Assumption celebrates the Church’s teaching that Mary was taken up, body and soul, into heaven. Though Mary’s Assumption has been celebrated since the early days of the Church, it was not until 1950 that it was made an official dogma. In the Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII declared, “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.”
Learn more about how the Assumption of Mary is honored in the artwork of the Basilica — inside and out!
The Rosary Garden
In the Rosary Garden, you can find the mysteries of the Rosary portrayed in lifelike mosaic detail in five granite arches. The Assumption of Mary appears alongside the other mysteries of the fourth decade in a mosaic designed by David Gavasheli and fabricated by Travisanutto of Italy. Robed in brilliant blue, Mary is taken up into heaven, flanked by two cherubs.
Perhaps the most famous depiction of the Assumption is Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin, a famous painting that is replicated in mosaic in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica. The artwork was commissioned as a gift by Pope Pius XII, and the completed work was presented by Pope John XXIII. It was created with a technique that leaves the surface uneven and reflective, unlike its sister mosaic the Immaculate Conception, where the tiles are ground smooth to resemble a painting.
A stained-glass version of Titian’s famous work is also found in the Basilica. Designed, created and donated by artist Arthur DeCarlo in 1992, this window resides on the Crypt level near the statue of the Holy Family at Rest.
Our Lady of Ta’Pinu
Our Lady of Ta’Pinu is a Marian devotion that originated on Gozo, the sister island of Malta. According to tradition, in 1883 the Blessed Mother spoke to a young woman returning from her work in the fields, calling her to pray in a small chapel. Miracles of healing followed, and pilgrims flocked to the location to pray for intercession. The mosaic in the Basilica is a copy of the painting by Bartolomeo Amadeo Perugino which currently resides in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of Ta’ Pinu. Commissioned by chapel owner Filippo Gauci in 1619, the work depicts the Blessed Mother surrounded by angels, who crown her as she ascends into heaven.
The Assumption Chapel
In the Great Upper Church, the Assumption Chapel honors Mary in her role as the “Ark of the New Covenant.” Shrouded in white, Mary rises as the disciples watch with their heads uplifted. Underneath the mosaic of her assumption into heaven, a smaller mosaic shows the Old Testament parallel of Solomon bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the Temple.
Pray the Assumption Novena with Us
As we celebrate the Assumption at the Basilica, we will pray a Novena August 6-14. We invite you to visit the Basilica during these special nine days of prayer and join us as we entrust all of our needs to the Blessed Mother.
Novena Prayer in Honor of the Assumption of Mary
Mary, full of grace, all generations rejoice to call you blessed and to acknowledge the great things that God your Savior has done for you. In preserving you from the stain of sin, God already prepared you to be taken to the place that had been readied for you in heaven. As we commemorate this Assumption of your body and soul into heaven, we recall that you intercede for us powerfully in your reign as Queen of the Universe and that you remember us tenderly as Mother of the Church. Seeking the help of your power and the consolation of your gentle compassion, we ask that you join us in praying for the intentions that we now entrust to your loving attention. (Mention prayer requests here.)
As you join in presenting these petitions to our Father in heaven, pray too that we may accept God’s response to our petitions with the spirit of joy that marked your life on earth and which now fills your soul in heaven. Help us to long for our own heavenly inheritance, so that we might join with you in praising God’s goodness forever. Amen.
The Basilica Guidebook, Dr. Geraldine Rohling