Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lenten Journey Week 5: SS. Annunciata

My journey for the 5th week of Lent took me to the parish of SS. Annunciata, or the Annunciazione della Beata Vergine Maria a Via Ardeatina, about 4km from our home near the Via Appia Antica. I was expecting a 20th century church building because it is in a modern neighborhood of Rome and was surprised to also find a church built in 1220 that has been restored and is still used. This church was along a medieval pilgrimage route between the Basilica of San Sebastiano and the Tre Fontane, the site of St. Paul's martyrdom, and it operated a hospital to care for pilgrims. (Today's parish sponsors a nearby modern hospital called Nuova Clinica Annunziatella that continues the tradtion.)

This was the first church in Rome to be named in honor of the Annunciation and it seems that the custom of distributing food to the poor on the Feast of the Annunciation originated from this church.
There is a 15th century fresco of the Annunciation in the sanctuary as well as in interesting small carved marble plaque with the Angel Gabriel kneeling in front of a standing Virgin Mary.
In 1640 the Annunziatella was entrusted to the Gonfalone Confraternity. The church received it's current baroque appearance during this time. The Gonfalone were disbanded by the Italian government in 1890, and it seems that the church was abandoned.

In the early 1900's Mass was again celebrated in the church and in 1935 it was established as a parish for the Diocese of Rome. In the 1970's a new church building and parish center were built, serving the large Catholic community in the neighborhood.
This is the sanctuary of the new church.

The tabernacle of the new church (above) 
and of the old church (below).

17th century terracotta crucifix in the old church.

An angel from the old church.

The ambo from the new church (above)
and the presider's chair (below).

The area where the church is located was an agricultural and industrial neighborhood of ancient Rome. There are 4th century ruins under the old church, probably a Roman house of an early Chritsian community.
Excavations in front of the new church reveal some of the buildings that were along the Via Ardiatina.

In 2001 SS. Annunciata became a titular church with the appointment of  Mario Francesco Cardinal Pompedda as its first titular. Cardinal Pompedda was born in Sardinia in 1929, became a canon lawyer, was dean of the Roman Rota and became the Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. The parish became a vacant titular church when Cardinal Pompedda died October 17, 2006.

Most merciful God,
by the passion of your Son Jesus Christ
you delivered us from the power of darkness;
grant that through faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may be found acceptable in your sight,
through our Savious Jesus Christ.
Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
A New Zealand Prayer Book

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