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Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

The Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was given the title of Minor Basilica in 2008 by then Pope Benedict XVI. 

In the Catholic Church, a basilica is a church building that has been given a special distinction by the Holy Father, the Pope. It is not necessarily the architecture that makes a church a basilica but rather that it has particular importance for liturgical and pastoral life.


There are two types of basilicas—major and minor. There are only four major basilicas in the world, all located in Rome: St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major. It is the later basilica from which the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Waterbury is based and named. To obtain the title of minor basilica, certain conditions must be met and a petition sent to the Pope by the local bishop. As of December 31, 2019, there were 1819 minor basilicas throughout the world, 88 of them in the United States.

The title of Minor Basilica given to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception sets it apart from other Churches and creates a special bond between the Church and the Pope. Spiritual benefits are attached to minor basilicas. For example, all Catholics who are free from grave or mortal sin may seek a plenary indulgence by visiting the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on certain days and fulfilling the required conditions.

What is an indulgence? When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives our sins and this sacrament removes the eternal punishment associated with any serious sin; however, we must also atone or make amends for our sins either in this life or after death in Purgatory. An indulgence is a favor granted to an individual by the Church that removes either completely (plenary) or partially the temporal punishment that remains for the sins that have been forgiven in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and helps us prepare for eternal happiness with God in Heaven.

To obtain a plenary indulgence, one must be a practicing Catholic and must fulfill three criteria:

  • Sacrament of Reconciliation 20 days before or after the day the indulgence is sought.

  • Receive Holy Communion, preferably on the day the indulgence is sought.

  • Pray for the Intentions of the Pope (Our Father and Hail Mary or other preferred prayers) on the day the indulgence is sought.

Days to obtain a plenary indulgence at the Basilica include:

February 9 - Date that the title of Minor Basilica was given in 2008

May 20 - Date of the dedication of the Church in 1928

June 29 - Feast Day of St. Peter and Paul

August 14 - Death of Father Michael McGivney founder of the Knights of Columbus in 1890

December 8 - Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception

Your family faith adventure trip does not have to involve a plenary indulgence. You can visit the Basilica anytime you wish; however, please consult the Basilica's website for up-to-date information on hours, restrictions, and so forth. Click here for directions from Madison.

While in Waterbury, you may want to consider visiting the Holy Land USA, which first opened in 1958, and is about 6 minutes from the Basilica on 90 Solcum Street. Holy Land USA was created to bring the community together in a peaceful setting atop a grand hill, which includes a large illuminated cross as well as replicas of various biblical settings. Over the years, the park has fallen into disarray but efforts are undergoing to restore it to its original beauty.