Among the thousands of churches, there are three churches in Rome that have been given extraterritorial status similar to that of foreign embassies. Article 13 of the Lateran Treaty of 1929 between the Holy See and Italy states: "Italy recognizes the full ownership of the Holy See over the patriarchal Basilicas of St. John Lateran, the Sta. Maria Maggiore, and St. Paul Outside the Walls, with their annexed buildings." These buildings are patrolled not by Italian police but by police agents of the Vatican City State. These Basilicas and St Peters are the only four “major” Basilicas in Rome and the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore) with it's Byzantine interior, one of the best preserved in Rome is the only one dedicated to the Blessed Virgin.
The Basilica when viewed from the Piazza of Santa Maria Maggiore stands behind a column on top of which rests a bronze statue of Mary. The eighteenth century facade has a porch with five openings on the bottom and three on the top which covers the XII century mosaics of the antique facade. Clearly visible from the piazza is also the highest campanile in Rome. On the other hand, viewed from the Piazza Esquilino, one sees the apse area and the domes of the Borghese and Sistine Chapels.