Cappella delle Suore Riparatrici del Sacro Cuore is a later 20th century convent chapel at Via Teodolfo Mertel 42 in the Aurelio suburban district. The postal address is Via Gregorio XI 26, the other side of the city block occupied by the convent.
This is the convent chapel of the Generalate (headquarters) of the Suore Riparatrici del Sacro Cuore, who also run an infants' school here.
The congregation was founded in Naples in 1875, but decided to establish its Generalate at Rome after developing an international outreach. It is one of several founded in the later 19th century, the charism of which seeks to combine reparative adoration of the Sacred Heart with charitable activities
The Generalate was begun in 1959, finished in 1960 and fully opened in 1962. It is enormous, and is one of surprisingly many such large Generalate convents of active sisterhoods built in the Roman suburbs in the period between the Second World War and the Second Vatican Council. Optimism and vocations were both in plentiful supply among consecrated religious of the Roman Catholic Church then.
Unlike several other nearby Generalates, this one is still functioning as it did on opening. That is, it contains the congregation's headquarters and noviciate, and also a kindergarten and infants' school. So, there is no holiday hotel (casa per ferie) here -yet.
The congregation have one other convent at Rome -see Sacro Cuore di Gesù delle Suore Riparatrici.
Despite always having been a private chapel, this edifice has a civic presence amounting to a full-sized church.
The very large convent consists of three ugly flat-roofed multi-storey blocks, arranged around three sides of a trapezoid. The main entrance is on Via Gregorio XI, set back behind mature trees.
However, the equally large chapel faces the Via Teodolfo Mertei and it is obvious that the architect had some sort of public ministry in mind.
The plan is basilical, consisting of a central nave with side aisles of six bays. There is a sanctuary apse as wide as the central nave, and unusually this embeds itself in one of the convent blocks. The edifice is otherwise stand-alone, except for a sacristy block on the far left hand side. The side aisles run round the apse to the convent on the left hand side, and enter the convent at the end of the fifth bay at the right.
The fabric involves a reinforced concrete frame, and infill of different kinds. The chapel stands over a crypt which is mostly below ground level, and the side aisles have galleries.
Each of the two-storey side walls demonstrates the latter. The six bays are separated by thin square pale grey concrete piers, which stand on a concrete plinth which in turn is on top of the red brick crypt wall. These piers support a massive projecting horizontal concrete beam, which marks the gallery floor level about halfway up. Below this beam, each bay has a triangular-topped infill wall in pink concrete blocks showing aligned vertical striations. Above the top angle is a void filled with grey concrete, pierced as a fine geometric grille in a rectangular strip below the beam. Also, a window strip runs down the near side of each bay wall.
Above the projecting beam, the gallery wall is in blank creamy white brickwork which is aligned with the face of the beam and hence projects over the bottom storey. At the top, between it and the roofline, is a series of horizontal rectangular windows, separated by thin vertical slab beams in between the bays. These bays insert into the roofline concrete beam, and also a little way into the wall below, and they and the roofline beam project strongly.
The side aisle roofs above these rather complicated side walls are flat. However, the central nave roof has a complicated set of pitches. Each bay has a low triangular dormer window on each side, with a transverse ridge-line running up to the central ridge of the roof. The latter has a vertical zig-zag profile, the lower angles being where the dormer ridges meet and the upper ones being where parallel ridges run down to the angles between the dormers. This second set of ridges are occupied by vertically projecting concrete beams, meeting at high angles at the central ridge-line. Hence, the roof is made up of a series of right-angled triangular pitches, and looks very complicated from the street. It is panelled in a dark grey composition, adding another colour to the surprisingly polychrome exterior.
The apse has a conical conch, with three triangular dormer windows.
The suspicion that this edifice was intended as a parish church of some sort is reinforced by the presence of a campanile. This is a red brick slab on the edge of the flat roof of the sacristy, having a gabled top and two triangular-topped bell apertures side by side. A square stone tablet is inserted as a diaper above these. The campanile is lower than the chapel.
The chapel is provided with a monumental public façade, behind a railing gate and opening onto a three-stepped patio because of the crypt. The light grey vertical steel railings are joined by little crosses, giving a thorny effect.
The frontage is in fine red brick. The side aisles are simple blank walls, topped by triangular aisle roof beams springing from a pair of inversely tapering piers with a cross-section in the form of a cross. These piers divide the aisle frontages from the central nave frontage, and each is bounded by thin vertical window strips on both sides.
The central nave frontage is in the form of a triangular bastion with a steep gable. The diagonal walls are in the same red brick, but the actual angle of the gable and half the height of the chapel below is taken up by a huge stained glass window which preserves the angle of the bastion. Below, the slightly projecting single entrance is flanked by a pair of piers in the same material and style as the lower storeys of the side walls. This arrangement breaks the angle of the bastion. The piers support a deep triangular-topped concrete lintel. Between this and the window, and keeping to the angle of the latter, is a zone in white brick with rows in little cross-shaped apertures.
The entrance has an external loggia occupying the width of the central nave. This rather spidery structure in grey concrete is not part of the structure of the chapel itself. It is on the plan of a transverse rectangle, with two rows of four concrete piers in the same style as the main façade piers flanking the central nave. They support a gazebo-style concrete canopy, with three gables at the front and one at each side. The central front gable has a steeper angle than the others. The entrance porch intrudes into the loggia between the inner pair of the far piers.
The diagonal walls of the central nave frontage each have a long rectangular stone bas-relief sculpture showing virgins in procession.
The basilical interior has the side aisles divided from the central nave by tall concrete pies in light grey. These have a cross-shaped cross-section, like those met with in the façade. They rise to, and meld with, the support beams of the central nave and apse roof which run around the interior.
The roof inside has the same form as outside, and amounts to a concrete vault. The support beams taper to a point on the major axis, and are in the same grey as the piers. The panels in between are in white.
There is a side chapel at the end of each aisle.
The main nave piers support galleries, and a gallery also runs across the counterfaçade. In between each pair of piers, the gallery projects in a sort of opera-box supported by two floating horizontal concrete slab-beams.
The counterfaçade window has stained glass in blue and yellow showing angels venerating the Sacred Heart (a heart-shaped symbol).
The sanctuary apse wall is entirely revetted in red marble, and backs onto a sculpture of Christ revealing his Sacred Heart and being venerated by angels. This is surrounded by a numinous cloud of silvery wire.