Cappella della Scuola Ufficiale dei Carabinieri is a later 20th century college chapel at Via Aurelia 511, in the Aurelio quarter.
Latin American College Edit
The Jesuit "Pontifical Latin American College" (Pontificio Collegio Pio Latino Americo) was founded in 1858, in order to train clergy for the republics of South America. It had small beginnings in a house next to the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, but in the following year it moved to larger premises owned by the Dominicans at Santa Maria sopra Minerva.
After success in attracting candidates, the college moved to part of the Jesuit noviciate at Sant'Andrea al Quirinale in 1867. It was almost expelled when the noviciate was sequestered by the Italian government in 1873, but received a stay of eviction until new quarters could be found. It was decided to provide purpose-built premises in the new district of Prati, which were begun in 1884. The college was able to move into them in 1887. The church was finished in the following year. See Santa Maria Immacolata al Collegio Pio Latino Americano.
The College moved out to a new suburban site on the Via Aurelia in 1962, and the Prati complex with its church was immediately demolished. An apartment block now stands on the site.
The vast Via Aurelia complex was completed in 1965. The architects for the chapel are given as Julio García Lafuente (an expatriate Spaniard) and Vincenzo Passarelli, and also involved in the project were Salvatore and Gaetano Rebecchini.
The move in the Sixties was a failure. Apparently the complex was over-large, and there are rumours that the very innovative chapel was thoroughly hated. Whatever, the college moved again only seven years after the completion of its new premises, to a smaller complex with a much less "experimental" chapel. See Cappella del Collegio Pio Latino Americano.
Fortunately, the abandoned complex was purchased by the Italian government in 1976 as an officer training school for the Carabinieri, the Italian paramilitary police force. This it remains, as the Scuola Ufficiale Carabinieri. Tellingly, the institution does not seem to make much use of the chapel.
The former Collegio is made up of three structurally separate five-storey blocks. Two of them are at right angles as a reversed L, with one of them being very long. A third block is inserted diagonally with one end in the angle of the L. The chapel is a separate edifice, with its major axis perpendicular to this diagonal block.
The chapel is a low windowless concrete cylinder with a flat roof, resembling a military pill-box or bunker (it should be remembered that it was not originally designed for a military institution). The concrete was left raw. There is a small hemi-cylindrical external porch.
The most obvious external feature of the chapel is the prominent lantern, which is on the major axis but offset from the centre of the flat roof in order to light the altar within. It has the form of a skew truncated cone, leaning backwards along the major axis. Interestingly, the truncation itself is not symmetrical. The axis is south-west to north-east, but the truncation is a glass pane facing north. It seems that the architect wished to have the lantern shedding maximum diffuse light, but without any direct rays of the sun.
The flat roof has a very wide parapet, with a slight upslope to its top surface. This contains glass bricks for further diffuse lighting within.
Given the lack of proper windows, the interior is very dark. Such light as there is comes from the central lantern over the altar, and also diffuses from an upper wall-screen of white bricks containing a grid of small apertures.
The layout is very innovative for the time -it dates from before the revision of the Roman Mass in 1970, after which the celebration of Mass on a free-standing altar, with the priest facing the congregation, became the norm. Here, the altar is not central but slightly offset backwards, but is still free-standing on a circular platform on one step, itself on a larger platform of three steps. This in turn is on a single-stepped platform which fits into the space between three inwardly sloping piers of raw concrete, supporting the ring-beam forming the bottom of the lantern. Exposed radial roof-beams fan out from this to join an anchor-beam at the top of the main wall.
(The Scuola seems to lack a proper website, and there is a lack of online photos of the chapel.)