Cappella dei Comboniani is a mid 20th century private convent chapel at Via Luigi Lilio 80, in the Ardeatino quarter. It is a former parish church.
The chapel is part of a convent of the Comboni Missionaries (Missionarii Comboniani Cordis Iesu), who have established their headquarters here. They had been founded by St Daniel Comboni of Verona in 1867, principally for missionary work in Africa.
The complex was opened in 1963, when the Missionaries at Rome moved from their previous base at San Luigi Gonzaga. It now comprises the Generalate of the Order, which was moved from Verona in 1965.
In 1968, the chapel became a parish church when the parish of Sant'Alberto alle Tre Fontane was set up. This, however, only lasted fifteen years before being suppressed.
Layout and fabric Edit
Despite being a purely private chapel, this edifice has the dimensions and proportions of a full-sized church because of the abortive intention that it should be parochial.
The plan of the edifice is basilical, having an integral nave and sanctuary with structural aisles (no separate transept or apse). The total number of bays is nine, under one roof. However, the chapel only occupies the central nave -the wide aisles are ancillary spaces.
The fabric consists of a reinforced concrete frame, with red brick infill. The left hand aisle elevation is taken up by expanses of window, separated by concrete piers supporting a roofline beam. However, the right hand one abuts conventual buildings.
The roof design is based on a mansard, but the aisle pitches are replaced by shallower-pitched roof sections over each aisle bay which are separated by triangular concrete struts and slope up to windows inserted under the central nave pitch. These windows light the chapel proper. At the junction between the sixth and seventh bay on the roof ridge is placed a low lantern, rectangular in plan, which bears a flèche or small spire. The roof throughout is pitched in a grey composition.
The façade has a shallow midpoint angle, with its two halves sloping back from the major axis. Since this is a private chapel, it does not contain an external entrance -the way in is via the convent.
The frontage displays the pitching of the mansard roof behind it. It is divided into seventeen vertical zones in high-quality pink brickwork, separated by thin recessed concrete pilasters. The recesses containing these pilasters have diagonal sides. Sixteen of the zones, eight on each side are identically treated. They are crossed by a grey concrete string course at the level of the entrance doorway lintel, and each zone has a small blind white concrete pilaster attached to the wall at ground level. The effect is a series of crosses. A bit more than midway up the façade, each zone has a rectangular white panel attached with a hexagonal cut-away revealing the brickwork behind. Above each of these is a five-sided concrete boss in the shape of the edge of a chisel.
The central zone is occupied by a large stained glass window in a recessed concrete frame, the window itself having a V-shaped top with a steeper angle than the gable above it. This window is fronted by a thin cross in white, and the frame fits into the gable.
A bronze statue of St Daniel Comboni is located in a small garden in front of the façade.
The wide façade gives a false impression of the interior, which has a single rectangular space combining nave and sanctuary.
The overall wall and ceiling décor is in white. The bays are separated by grey concrete transverse rectangular piers, which spring from a square footprint and widen with a slope on the inner face. The sides of these piers are wood-panelled. They meet flush with the creamy white panels of the gabled roof, and between each pair of piers is a pair of transverse support girders which spring from the tops of the inner faces of the piers. These beams are triangular, growing thinner towards their meeting point in the roof ridge.
Between each pair of piers is a thick panel in bright white, which has a hexagonal aperture filled with stained glass. The glass depict saints. Each of these panels has a triangular top, above which is a window with its lintel flush with the roof panel. The light from these windows comes from the outside, unlike that coming from the stained glass windows below.
The floor is in creamy white marble tiles,, with a broad central stripe in dark red flanked by two separate narrow stripes in black marble veined in white.
The altar is on a sanctuary platform in red marble, raised on three steps. On the far wall are three huge mosaic panels, depicting the Risen Christ flanked by Our Lady and (?) St John.
The chapel and convent are private, but there is a good view of the former from the street.