Rome Travel Guide

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A modernist gem in Vittoria: the Chiesa di Cristo Re

The area of Rome we're living in is called "della Vittoria," and it begins about a mile north of the Vatican.  It was all developed after 1900.  On the whole, it lacks exceptional buildings, although there are plenty of attractive ones built in the 1920s--large apartment buildings with enticing interior courtyards.

On viale Mazzini

The bronze above the door is by one of the
more famous 20th century Italian sculptors,
Arturo Martini

We've walked the area before, and never paid much attention to the Chiesa di Cristo Re (Church of Christ the King), with its modernist facade of brick.  The other day, having read in our architectural guide that the church was designed by Marcello Piacentini, surely the most famous architect of the Fascist era (and sometimes called "Mussolini's architect"), we made our way to nearby viale Mazzini, where the church stands.  The exterior is in rows of Roman hand-made brick.

And there, on the side of one of the front doors, proof of Piancentini's role, though why the spelling is Marcelli remains a mystery (perhaps an attempt to Latin-ize his name- to go with "Opus" = "work" in Latin).

Inside, the chiesa is rigorously symmetrical, with powerful streamlined features--the narrow, curved balcony in the photo below, and other curved features-- that strike us as unusual, even for the early 1930s, when the building was constructed.

Unfortunately, the modernist features of the structure were not replicated in the mosaic windows that line the sides of the church.  They're colorful, yes, but too busy and complex.

An exception is a fine piece on the left side, near the front door.

The dome is at once powerful and elegant.  Other concrete elements (some of which, on close inspection, need work) anticipate the brutalist era that began in the 1950s.

Christ on his throne, and the angels to either side, are by Achille Funi (another artist favored by the Fascists, and influenced by Giorgio de Chirico's metaphysical style).



Richard Peterson said...


Are you becoming interested in churches?


Richard Peterson

Dianne Bennett and William Graebner said...

We've posted dozens of pieces on churches over the years. But yes, I'm personally more interested than I used to be, especially in 20th and 21st-century churches. I still have trouble identifying the basic parts of a church. But I can recognize the stations of the cross. Looks like they're going to build a big new church on the grounds of the old central market in Ostiense. The Catholic Church needs that like a hole in the head.

Anonymous said...

The name is not a mistery at all: it is the genitive of "Marcellus". The latinised name of Piacentini was "Marcellus Piacentinus"