Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Europe's largest mosque - in Rome

The principal mosque in Rome is a world apart from the rest of this very Catholic city. Its postmodern decor is reserved; it has wide open spaces—corridors in the open air--and repetitious designs; it’s set in a green space divorced from any other city structures. After all the baroque churches of Rome, even my favorites by Borromini (who also loved repetition built into the architecture of his churches - I think he would have loved this building complex), I find the mosque beautiful and serene, an almost ethereal structure. Bill says it borders on boring (maybe all that Renaissance architecture is getting in his blood).

We both recommend a visit – Wednesday and Saturday 9:30-11 a.m. only, and of course then it is devoid of worshippers, which gives it an eerily empty feeling. (Directions at the end of this post.)
Women: be sure to wear something that covers your arms, no shorts, and you’ll need a scarf to cover your head. I was alert enough to wear appropriate clothing, but had no idea about the scarf and was lucky enough to borrow one from another visitor. Only a few visitors – you can wander around the mosque’s many separate sections on your own, and a couple group tours (all in Italian) were in evidence on a recent Wednesday morning.

It’s something of a miracle that the mosque, the largest in Europe, stands in Rome at all. It took the blessing of Pope John Paul II for it to be built. Controversy resulted in a minaret slightly less tall than St. Peter’s dome (39 meters (128 feet) vs. St. Peter’s 40 (130 feet), but the mosque is built in a very low area of Rome, so the minaret and main building are hardly visible from any distance, and no real threat to the imposing St. Peter’s dome, not too far away. The architectural competition was won by Paolo Portoghesi (with his then partner Vittorio Gigliotti and Iraqi architect Sami Mousawi) in 1976 and the building opened in 1995, funded mainly by Saudi money.

The mosque complex is nestled in a park-like area at the base of the ritzy Parioli district and very near a vast expanse of sports complexes along Acqua Acetosa (literally "vinegary water," but to the Italians that means very good water, a place Goethe liked to visit as well). And speaking of water, there wasn't much in evidence at the mosque. Like many other Rome monuments, the water supposed to be coursing down the main steps was not, and appeared not to have been running for some time.

A bonus: outside the mosque a large food stand was set up with a Muslim man and woman selling all types of prepared food. Of course, we went away with a large box of pistachio and honey-based desserts. A large market operates outside the mosque on Friday mornings, but you can’t visit on Fridays.

There is surprisingly little written on the mosque. See the following site for detailed architectural information: or, if you're lucky, find Frederika Randall's 1995 Wall Street Journal article. The city of Rome has some information in a badly - even humorously - translated website (the architects aren't Portuguese; one of the last names is Portoghese) at Ingrid Rowland, writing about Palladio describes the elegance of the mosque in her New York Review of Books piece, covered by Bill in a later post.

Directions: from the Rome center: take the train just outside Piazza del Popolo (Metro A from Termini to Flaminio/Popolo) to the Campo Sportivi stop (you can use your same metro ticket – but this is the train, not the metro; the station is outside, north of Piazza del Popolo, on the side of Villa Borghese), and head back towards the city, towards the minaret, which you can see from there.

Dianne - and see our RST Top 40 piece on this signature mosque. For a bit more on Rome's ethnic presence, see a couple posts on Romanians (the gladiator controversy and a newsstand , the Pigneto neighborhood, Chinese (and other) stores near Piazza Vittorio, and some immigration controversy.  Oh, yes, and do eat a kebab.


Rifa'i Kurdi said...

When The Prophet Muhammad works between his follower onto prepare war of tabuk, he said: "The believers will conquests three kingdom nearby, there are Persia, Yemen and Rome".
His forecast was truly happened. Later years,
two kingdoms were belong to muslim wholly and in the middle age "half" of Rome (Byzantine) was conquested by Muhammad Al-Fatih, king of Ottoman, and in the future the believers will occupy Rome wholly too.
Wellcome to The Rome for the second time.

Anonymous said...

I visited this mosque in July 2009. It was a challenge to get there because of the communication barrier but once we eventually did arrive, it was certainly worth it. The mosque is exquisite. I think I enjoyed the experience even more because the Imam gave us a personal tour of the premises which made it interesting and memorable. I would love to go back.

Unknown said...

Inshallah I shall be travelling to Italy in March and intend performing salalh there on Friday 6th March 2015. Can someone kindly inform me with regard to JUMAH prayer time.

Jazakallahul Khayr

Mahomed Khan