Cappella delle Suore Missionarie dei Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Maria is a mid 20th century convent chapel at Via del Trullo 372 in the Portuense suburban district.
The congregation here, the "Sisters, Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary" (Suore Missionarie dei Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Maria) need to be distinguished from another congregation from Barcelona in Spain with a very similar name -"Missionaries of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary" (Missionarie dei Sacri Cuore di Gesù e Maria).
The Suore have a rather unfortunate foundation history -the Diocese gives the year of foundation as 1895, at Rome itself, but this is diplomatic. The remote origins lie with a female charitable confraternity at Lanciano called the "Least Sisters of the Sacred Hearts" (Suore Imfime dei Sacri Cuore), which was founded by a local priest in 1880. Two members of this, Rosa Rosati and Rosa D'Ovidio, established a house at Rome in 1886 -actually in the Vatican, at Via della Sagrestia 10. However, things seem to have gone very wrong in the mother house, which was shut down in 1888. Despite this, the Roman community kept going and was given diocesan approval in 1895. A definitive rule of life was imposed in 1898.
A new headquarters or Generalate was built on a suburban site down the Via Portuense in 1962
The congregation remained with diocesan approval until 1963, when it founded an outreach in Brazil. As is usual, once international status was achieved then papal approval (Decree of Praise) was sought for and obtained in 1975.
Unusually, the sisters then extended a missionary outreach at a time when vocations to the religious life were declining, and similar congregations were scaling back. They went to South Korea in 1989, to Tanzania in 2000 and Guatemala in 2005.
The more recent statistics are telling -168 sisters in 19 convents in 2008, and 132 in 22 convents in 2019.
At the Generalate, the sisters maintain both nursery and infants' schools which seem to be separate institutions. They also help out in the local parish of San Raffaele Arcangelo.
Layout and fabric Edit
The convent is set well back from the street, in grounds with mature trees. However, from the gates the large chapel can be glimpsed at the top of an ascending drive with decorative paving in white and red, which runs through a shallow revetted cutting.
The main convent block is an uninteresting four-storey flat-roofed structure in red brick, on a compact square plan and with a three-storey annexe. However, the chapel is huge and amounts to a full-sized church edifice. It has its own architectural identity, being only attached to the convent by its back wall and is in red brick as well.
The structure consists of a nave of four bays, and a single-bay sanctuary not differentiated structurally and all under one pitched and tiled roof. An arcaded walkway with a single-pitched tiled roof runs down both sides, and these are connected by an entrance loggia across the front. The arcade arches are in grey concrete, completely unadorned and standing on a high plinth.
Above the walkways, each nave bay has a wide window in each side with its sill at the level of the top of the walkway roof.
A little brick campanile perches on the far end of the right hand side wall, having apertures for two bells, one above the other.
The side walkways turn to form two arches either side of the main chapel entrance. Unlike their grey concrete, the latter has a red brick kiosk attached to the chapel frontage. It has a taller single, unadorned arch and its own roof of three short tiled pitches around a central flat section.
Above, the ends of the chapel roof protrude slightly over a very deep pair of white diagonal bargeboards which meld with a pair of blind corner pilasters framing the red brick walling. However, the central part of the gable is raised to form an aedicule containing a large round-headed aperture which contains a polychrome statue of the Sacred Heart. The sides of this aedicule are marked by another pair of white pilasters.