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Cappella delle Suore Francescane Missionarie d'Egitto is an early 20th century convent chapel at Via Caterina Troiani 90 in the Torrino zone.

Name Edit

The correct name of the congregation is "Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary", but they are probably better known by their former name of "Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Egypt" and this has some official recognition.

History Edit

The "Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Egypt" had their remote origins at a Poor Clare monastery at Ferentino near Rome. Bl Maria Caterina Troiani became a nun there in 1829, after having been accepted into the monastery's orphanage in 1819 when aged six. (It seems odd that a monastery of a purely contemplative tradition should have been running an orphanage, but the nuns had to justify their existence in the context of anti-clerical legal sanctions.)

The nuns learned about the possibility of missionary activity in Egypt from one of their confessors, a Franciscan who had been in Alexandria. The Roman rite of the Catholic Church had attracted many converts from the native Coptic Church for reasons of prestige and protection (as always, conversions from Islam did not happen). The upshot of this was that Bl Maria Caterina went with a founding group to establish a convent in Cairo in 1859. She became the superior in 1863. Because of the requirement of monastic enclosure, the pastoral outreach was in teaching girls.

In 1868 the mother house at Ferentino decided to abort the project, but the sisters in Cairo did not accept this decision and petitioned for independence. This was granted, and they were conceded the status of regular tertiaries instead of nuns -this removed the need for physical virginity in candidates and also the problem with enclosure which allowed the sisters to go out and about on missionary activities.

The congregations spread to become international, beginning in Africa and going on to the Americas and Asia. This international aspect led to the removal of the Generalate or headquarters from Cairo to Rome, where a large convent was built on a rural site in 1907.

In 1950 the name was changed, to "Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary". Suburban development started about the same time, and the street leading to the convent was named after the foundress.

At present (2018) the Generalate convent houses two other institutions. There is a school called the Istituto Santa Chiara, and a performing arts venue called Auditorium Santa Chiara.

Appearance Edit

Layout Edit

The setting is in quite extensive parkland with mature trees (the sisters were successful in keeping the apartment blocks at a distance) and there is quite a long drive from the street.

The convent is in a fully monastic style. There is an enclosed cloister, bounded by four three-storey ranges and having an arcaded passageway on all four sides. The chapel is a separate edifice, perpendicular to the cloister range nearest to the street and perpendicular to it.

The plan comprises a short two-bay nave for the public, a transept having a crossing dome and a long choir and sanctuary of five bays. The back of the chapel attaches to the convent.

The transept crossing has the plan of an irregular octagon, with very short diagonal side walls. The transept arms protrude slightly beyond these from the line of the nave and choir. A flat-roofed covered passageway runs down the right hand side of the choir to the right hand transept arm, and a sacristy block occupies the left hand side. Attached to the front of this block, and near the left hand transept arm (although not abutting it) is a tall tower campanile.

A pair of external side chapels are inserted into the corners between nave and transept, and flank the second bay of the former.

Fabric Edit

The fabric is in pink brick, mostly left exposed. The nave, choir and transept arms all have pitched and tiled roofs, at the same height.

The dome has a low octagonal drum in white, with eight triangular tiled sectors meeting at a white cylindrical lantern with eight windows and a conical cap which overhangs slightly. Each side of the drum has three windows. There is a single-pitched crossing roof in each of the four spaces between the drum and the diagonal crossing walls.

A large vertical rectangular window is in each end wall of the transept, which has mullions in the form of a Latin cross. A smaller one is in each diagonal crossing wall, and five more are in each choir side wall.

Façade Edit

The simple façade has a porch across its entire width, an open-fronted structure with a single-pitched tiled roof which is (unusually) hipped. The open front has two simple, thin brick piers supporting the roof-beam. The porch covers a patio approached by a single flight of stairs occupying the same width, which hints at a crypt.

Above the porch, the frontage has a large vertical rectangular window with a triangular top to its frame -although the fenestration is rectangular, the angle at the top is in white to give the impression of a pediment. The same trick is played with the façade gable, which is in white. The top angle of the window frame intrudes into this, and is flanked by two simple sunk panels in the form of right angled triangles.

Two similar sunk panels without frames, except larger and rectangular, are in the brickwork flanking the window.

Campanile Edit

The spectacular brick tower campanile is the tallest structure in the convent complex, and seems to have been a romantic indulgence because the layout of the chapel would have made its use as a public Mass centre rather limited.

It has three storeys of increasing height, separated by simple string courses in white. The bell-chamber is large, and has four vertical rectangular apertures. Each aperture is within a white panel which occupies almost the whole height of the final storey, and has a thin vertical strip each side of the aperture. This feature is continued down the blank brickwork of the first two storeys as a pair of vertical recessed strips

The top of the tower is a tall pyramid in grey, on an attic plinth having a triangular-topped window on each side.

External links Edit

Official diocesan web-page

Congregation's website

Info.roma web-page

School website

Auditorium website

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