Cappella delle Ancelle della Carità is a mid 20th century convent chapel at Via del Casaletto 538 in the Gianicolense suburban zone.
In 1910, the congregation opened a psychiatric hospital ("lunatic asylum", in the language of the times) at Villa Giuseppina on the Via Nomentana -very near the Cappella della Casa Generalizia delle Suore Orsoline dell'Unione Romana. This answered a serious need in the rapidly growing city.
The institute moved to the Villa Giuseppina in the Portuense quarter in 1960 (see Cappella della Villa Giuseppina). It remains locally important in its field, and has its facilities expanded in recent years.
As part of the same re-ordering project, the sisters built for themselves a large convent which looks impressive enough to have been intended as a new Generalate. However, it was arguably a waste of resources because it became a white elephant as the number of sisters began to decline.
To make some use of it, the convent has now been converted into a holiday hotel (Casa per ferie) called Al Casaletto. Religious congregations running such establishments at Rome are allowed tax breaks, and many such convents have been so converted. They are run by professional lay staff, with only a few (or even just one) of the owning sisters in residence.
Layout of convent Edit
This is (or was) a very large and impressive convent complex. Who was the architect?
The layout involves six three or four-storey wings (according to the slope of the ground), four of which occupy four sides of a hexagon. The other two wings form a long range which runs off from the side angle of the hexagon nearest the street, and are themselves being at 120 degrees to each other. The chapel is attached to the free end of the near wing of the hexagon, to the right of the long range just mentioned when looking from the street.
A two-storey annexe attaches to the street side of the chapel and adjacent wing, and runs parallel to the first of the long range wings.
The walls of the complex are rendered in a bright pastel pink, and the pitched roofs are in a bright, slightly bluish green. The effect is very striking, and great fun. The annexe is flat-roofed.
Layout and fabric of chapel Edit
The chapel is on a basically hexagonal plan, mutated in an interesting way. The analysis begins with six massive white reinforced concrete piers at the corners of the hexagon, which meld with diagonal roof-beams meeting at a central lantern. The roof amounts to a hexagonal dome of fairly low pitch and six triangular sectors in green, the support beams being exposed. The pitches are at an angle to the beams, so that more of them is exposed nearer the lantern.
The very tall lantern doubles up as a campanile, although there seem to be no bells. The roof beams turn upwards to form a hexagonal concrete box with a narrow vertical rectangular aperture occupying each side and a cross finial on top. A horizontal rectangular window is inserted between the bottom of the box and the top of each pitch, and this contains glass with a cross motif in red.
The mostly blank pink walls are not directly attached to the main piers, but support the roofline beams of an area of flat roofing around the dome. This is on three levels of slightly different heights, the highest around three sides of the dome, a median level around two and a lower level around one.
The roofline beams do not connect up to form a larger hexagon. Instead, there is a vertical step in each side about a third of the way from the corner angle on the left. This leaves a narrow vertical strip of wall in the gap so created.
The entrance abuts the annexe, and has a separate flat-roofed entrance porch on the plan of a truncated triangle which also abuts the roof of the annexe.
The interior is simple, and sparsely furnished.
The free-standing roof piers are in a pale grey, as are the horizontal support beams joining them. These are really massive, and are of two thicknesses each. The roof panels are in white, and the walls are in pale yellow. The floor is in a different hue of pale grey, and has six broad white rays which run from the piers to converge at a central two-stepped hexagonal platform bearing the altar.
There are not many windows. The two side walls going anticlockwise from the entrance each have four little rectangular windows around a square one, giving a cross pattern. The embrasure at the corner between these two walls has a window strip.