Cappella della Scuola Divino Amore is a later 20th century convent and school chapel at Viale di Villa Pamphili 3 in the Gianicolense quarter. It is near the basilica of San Pancrazio.
This school is run by the Suore del Divino Amore.
The proper historic name of the congregation is Institutum Divini Amoris which is rendered in Italian as Istituto Divino Amore or "Institute of Divine Love" (no genitive del, though). The sisters in Italy use the initials IDA.
There are two problems with this. Firstly, the word Istituto usually means "school for children" in modern Italian, so the sisters began referring to themselves as Suore del Divino Amore -and this is the name used by the Diocese.
Secondly, serious confusion arose between them and the Figlie della Madonna del Divino Amore based at the Santuario della Madonna del Divino Amore. The IDA sisters have nothing to do with either, and so now refer to themselves as the Suore Agostiniane del Divino Amore.
The remote origins of the congregation lie in the foundation at Montefiascone of the Conservatorio di Santa Chiara by the city's bishop, in 1630. This was a house of refuge for women who were involved in the sex industry and wished to escape from it. Similar institutions were often founded in Italian cities in that century (including at Rome, for example see San Giacomo alla Lungara), a stark contrast to the basically Protestant social reaction of criminalising the industry and then ignoring the abuse suffered by women in it.
The Conservatorio was converted into a convent, the Istituto Divino Amore, by Cardinal Marcantonio Barbarigo in 1705. This meant that the inmates made religious promises as tertiaries. They supported themselves by teaching and caring for small children. However, in 1721 a further change was made in that the convent was given papal enclosure and the Augustinian rule and so became contemplative. However, the sisters did not affiliate to the Order of St Augustine and so remained sui-generis.
Together with most other enclosed nunneries in Napoleonic Europe, the convent in Montefiascone was suppressed and the sisters told to return to their families. This was in 1810. Some of them re-assembled in 1816, but anti-clerical legislation meant that they had to justify their existence by gainful employment. This meant teaching girls again, and the work was so successful that other convents opened in towns nearby during the 19th century. The first of these was at Rome, in 1828.
Conservatorio Pio Edit
Pope Pius VI founded a rescue centre for abandoned girls and young women, of which the local slums had a ready supply, in 1775. It was well known that most of these were going to end up in the sex trade, and the hope was to keep them safe and to teach them useful craft skills. Such initiatives had been going on at Rome for over a century, but co-ordinating them was not a priority. The Conservatorio was at what is now Via Garibaldi 38-46. This had been built as a tobacco factory -tobacco was a Papal government monopoly, and an important source of its revenue.
Sister Rosalia of the Five Wounds pioneered the new foundation, which definitively took over the Conservatorio in 1851 when the remaining resident girls were transferred elsewhere. The separate legal status of the Conservatorio was abolished in 1873, but the sisters apparently only finished setting up their convent and social centre in 1878.
In 1906 the sisters finally affiliated to the Augustinian friars. This was part of an intention to abandon the monastic part of their charism, and to become a fully active sisterhood without enclosure. This was achieved in 1917, and the congregation was approved by the Holy See in 1918.
There has been a limited international outreach, with two convents in Peru (Cuzco and Cochabamba), and one in the Philippines (Cebu City). The sisters of the latter use the initials ASDA for "Augustinian Sisters of Divine Love". A convent in Greece seems to have been shut down.
The congregation built themselves a new Generalate (headquarters) in the Sixties, at Via Lorenzo Rocci 64 in the Gianicolense suburban district. This is now also a holiday hotel (Casa per ferie) called Casa Mater Mundi. See Cappella delle Suore Agostiniane del Divino Amore. The original Roman convent on the Via Garibaldi was kept up until 1996, when it was shut down.
In 1961, the sisters bought a villa in Monteverde Vecchio and built a school in its garden. The project included an architecturally distinct chapel, by Alberto Tonelli. This infants' school is now their only pastoral outreach in Rome.
The chapel is sandwiched between the original villa on the site, and the school building. The former is an unassuming two-storey neo-Baroque erection in cream-coloured render, while the latter is an ugly five-storey red brick erection looking like an apartment block for poor people of the period.
The chapel abuts both, but has its own frontage which is approached by a stepped ramp in purple bricks with a fish-scale pattern in white. It is in blank brick, apart from the entrance. The roof sweeps up in a long pitch to a transverse roofline, then runs down in a shorter pitch to cover the sanctuary. This is in the form of a shallow but wide three-sided apse, with a window in each of the diagonal sides.
The roof is completed by two side pitches, which leave a large triangular window lunette on each side which must provide most of the natural light for the interior.