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A large oblong hall or building with double colonnades and a semicircular apse, used in ancient Rome as a law court or for public assemblies. The name was then applied to a building of this type used as a Christian Church; in Rome, it designated specifically the seven churches founded by Constantine. Basilica is also the name given to certain churches granted special privileges by the Pope.

Recorded from the mid 16th century, the word comes from Latin, literally ‘royal palace’, and from Greek basiliskē, feminine of basiliskos ‘royal’, from basileus ‘king’.

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