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In ancient Rome, a "basilica" was a large, central meeting place where government business was transacted. The basilicas were generally rectangular in design with a central nave supported with parallel colonnades. Light came from windows above the colonnades. There was usually an apse at one end.

After the Roman Empire officially became Christian, the Christian church began to use the basilicas. Eventually, the term came to define the largest, most ornate and important churches that are so identified by the pope. There are only 79 Catholic basilicas in the United States.

JRM 9/18/16

Basilica of St. Mary--Catholic (Hennepin County, Minnesota)
Basilica of the Sacred Heart (St. Joseph County, Indiana)
Extravagantly decorated neo-gothic Catholic church.
Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption (Kenton County, Kentucky)
Holy Hill (Washington County, Wisconsin)
St. Adalbert Basilica (Kent County, Michigan)
Large Catholic basilica church
St. Josaphat Basilica (Milwaukee County, Wisconsin)
Spectacular church built by Polish parishioners with material recycled from a razed US Post Office
St. Joseph's Basilica (Alameda County, California)