Rome Travel Guide

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

21st Century Churches Continued: Inviting or Not?

In January we began a series on Rome's contemporary churches, noting that much of contemporary Rome architecture is found in its churches, and most of those in the ex-urban areas. These churches tell us about the state of modern architecture and in many cases provide some social history. We continue our series with the remarkable church of San Franceso di Sales in the Rome suburb of Alessandrino (named for the aqueduct that still runs through the area).

Side view of the distinctive copper roof
One of us likes it better than the other, but there's no doubt this church, consecrated in 2005, is distinctive.  Its dramatic front, squared off repeatedly, then capped with a hood-like point, is designed to represent an inviting portal.  Whether it's inviting or not, we leave to you.

Speaking of inviting, our first trek (and it was a trek) out to this church resulted in the gates being shut on us.  You can see the large grey metal gates that are open in the top photo above.  But we arrived at noon, and the gates quickly closed.  Despite our pleas: no exceptions.

So, being RST, we retired to the bar across the road, where one has a front and center view of that dramatic portal.  And we had the chance to talk to the locals about their impressions of the church.  They seem to like it, but feel a bit disappointed that it wasn't by a famous architect and had few visitors such as us, in contrast to a Richard Meier tourist attraction, his gorgeous Jubilee Church less than a mile away in the area of Tor Tre Teste (you can do both in the same trip; see transportation suggestions at the end of this post).

As with several of the other "50 churches for Rome 2000" we have seen, this one too has an open plan, with little to separate the side chapels and other traditional church elements.  It also uses plenty of white travertine and paint, though it's not blindingly white like Meier's.

Besides the dramatic portal, the distinctive feature of this church is its copper roof, perhaps echoing Renzo di Piano's metal covered auditoriums at Parco della Musica.  Or, perhaps the shape of the roof inside and out and the interior wood suggest a ship--even Noah's ark--a frequent metaphor for the Church and one used by Richard Meier in his Jubilee Church.

View towards the back of the church
Blue-tinted windows and arching roof of laminated wood bring
streams of light into the church
The inside of the church is also distinctive, with an octagonal shape, a wood-beamed roof, and 100 or so blue-tinted windows that produce a bounty of streams of light.

Modern, white interior fixtures; no indication
of an artist separate from the architects

The fixtures are all highly modern, in white travertine as well.

Stations of the Cross are outside

Walkway for the Stations of the Cross
The church is unusual in having the Stations of the Cross outside, along the side and behind the church.

The architects are Lucrezio Carbonaro, Paulo Dattero and Alfredo Re of Studio Dattero and Re.  We could find no other buildings of theirs cited anywhere.

The parish was founded in 1961.  One can imagine the suburban area just beginning to sprout up then. But the parish, and its priest, struggled for more than 40 years to construct a church here, encountering many hurdles.  As we noted above, it wasn't until 2005 that the church was consecrated. Apparently the church hierarchy took pity on the priest and included the new church in its 2000 plan even though, as the hierarchy said, the church did not meet the economic considerations to be one of the "50 churches for Rome 2000"--maybe because it's so close to the Jubilee Church. The priest died days before the church dedicated to San Francesco di Sales was consecrated, knowing it had been built.
Parishioners generally seem pleased with their modern church

Unlike some of the 21st century churches, this one seems to have
had few "homey" touches added
Below are more photos of the church, and some of its surroundings.

 If you want to see it, remember it is closed from noon to 4:30 p.m., and likely after 6 p.m.  Address:  viale Alessandrino, no. 585.  It's between via Prenestina and via Casilina, inside the GRA.  If you can handle some walking, you can take the #14 tram from Stazione Termini to its end, on viale Palmiro Togliatti, and walk a half mile or less to the church.  Then, less than 1 mile away from the church is Meier's Jubilee Church, and you can walk back to the #14 tram line.  You can also be dropped on viale P. Togliatti 2 short blocks from San Francesco di Sales by taking the Red Metro line (Anagnina direction) to the Cinecitta' stop and taking a # 451 bus (every 7 minutes during normal hours, on the southwest corner of via Tuscolona and viale Palmiro Togliatti; bus is labeled "Ponte Mammolo") from there 10 stops; apparently the same route doesn't work well going the other way.  The bus service (ATAC) recommends you take the #14 to get back to the centro. (For all bus directions, we recommend the Web site.)

Look for more modern church posts in the future!


Sunday mass; the ubiquitous white, perhaps Roman, columns
The church's suburban neighborhood seen from the church's high ground

Detail on bell tower


Woman begging outside church was the recipient of alms
from the local parishioners, who seemed to know her well


1 comment:

Roseann said...

I like it. Anyone else?