Monday, April 30, 2012

A Church in "the Bronx" of Rome

My search for 21st Century churches in Rome led me to the neighborhood of Quartaccio, in the quarter of Torreveccia, less than 20 minutes by car west of St. Peter's in Vatican City. I came to the neighborhood from the GRA autostrada and was amazed to see attractive "contemporary" linear buildings of two and four stories.

I discovered that these homes were built as subsidized housing units according to an urban plan by Pietro Barucci, 1984-88. It is a complex of 700 apartments for 2,500 inhabitants. It is said that it "marked the return of a more human and traditional building manner. (Other buildings in the quarter are 15 stories.)

A taxi driver told me that this quarter is popularly called "the Bronx." My online reading of news stories from the last few years dealing with crime and police activity in the area confirmed this nickname.

It was here in "the Bronx" that I found the Church of Santa Maria della Presentazione. (Actually, the church name has been taken off of the fence and replaced with a canvas banner proclaiming the activities of three churches that are now united as the Parish of Santa Faustina. This location is called the Quartaccio building.)

The Diocese of Rome instituted a plan to build 50 new churches at the beginning of the 21st century. (Each site, on the periphery of Rome, included a church with a daily chapel, religious education classrooms, a sports facility, and a community gathering place.) The Nemesi Studio responded in 2002 with this Church of Santa Maria della Presentazione.

At first sight it was difficult to find the defined spaces within the construction. A large roof was supported over the complex and under it were a series of columns, ramps, stairs and other architectural elements.

The parish office seemed to be suspended in all of this.

 The gymnasium and meeting space is entered under these projecting canopies.

 I eventually found the worship space, which was closed. (The banner on the front fence indicated there was only one Mass a week, Sundays at 10:30.)

Glass doors open to a vestibule outside what appears to be a windowless sanctuary. (Maybe there is a skylight.) From drawings of plans that I have seen in Roma: Nuova Architettura, by Sebastiano Brandolini, the church is an oval shape with a sphere at the end opposite the entrance.

There was some activity of a few families going in and out of the sports center, but they seemed oblivious to the church. During my visit a middle aged Italian woman was wandering around the complex looking for where the church was. From a ramp I pointed down to the sphere and told her it was closed and probably only open for Mass on Sunday.

The only religious imagery was a cross on the roof that could only be seen from a distance. Pigeons fly through the open spaces, weeds are growing in the sidewalks, trash has been blwon into corners, and even though the building is only ten years old, there is need for basic structural maintenance.

 I hope Saint Faustina's "Divine Mercy" can bring life into this space and let it become a "box of mercy and hope" for its depressed neighborhood.


Willym said...

Perhaps an image of the church as it is today????

Basil Watkins OSB said...

This church or chapel has no listing in the website of the Diocese, which is very odd. The situation in the parish of Santa Faustina Kowalska is odd, anyway -it has a temporary prefab church, then also a former convent some distance away with an attached chapel which houses the parish offices and is another Mass centre, and finally the edifice here.