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Cappella delle Suore Scolastiche di Nostra Signora is a mid 20th century convent chapel at Via della Stazione Aurelia 95 in the Gianicolense suburban zone.

Name Edit

The official Latin name of the congregation is Congregatio Pauperum Sororum Scholarum Nostrae Dominae. This literally translates as "Poor Sisters of the Schools of Our Lady".

The congregation is German in origin, and its name there is Arme Schulschwestern von Unserer Lieben Frau which is a fair translation. In Italian it is usually Suore Scolastiche di Nostra Signora, which is not ("Scholastic Sisters of Our Lady" -presumably not so poor).

Very oddly, in English the name is usually "School Sisters of Notre Dame" -why "Our Lady" in French?

History Edit

The congregation has been dedicated to teaching girls from its beginning. It was one of those which came into being in the early 19th century, because the Napoleonic era in Europe had shut down almost all the nunneries which were the main source of education for girls beforehand. It was much easier to found new congregations than to revitalise the old ones, and try to adapt them to changed circumstances.

The origins were in Bavaria in Germany, and the first convent was opened in a little town called Neunburg vorm Wald in 1833. This was because an empty convent was available. However, a move to the capital city of Munich made sense and this took place definitively in 1843 when the Münchner Angerkloster was opened. This was to be the Generalate (headquarters) for over a century.

The congregation underwent a spectacular expansion in the United States, where it ministered to German migrants and their descendants from 1847 -the first theatre of operations was Pennsylvania. In 1865 it received papal approval, mainly owing to this international character. Further missionary activity led to its establishing schools in every continent (except Antarctica).

Like many other active sisterhoods, the congregation heeded the wishes of the Holy See in the mid 20th century that all such congregations with international responsibilities should have their headquarters in Rome. So, in 1957 a big new convent for the Generalate was built down the Via Aurelia -one of many in an area dominated by such religious institutions.

Unlike some of their neighbours, the sisters have kept substantial numbers into the 21st century. In 2008 there were over 3500 of them in 546 convents worldwide.

Exterior Edit

The large and rather sprawling convent is in a parkland setting, some way from the street. It has two main ranges, joined by an enclosed flat-roofed walkway. Nearer the street this walkway is abutted by a large rectangular aula or meeting-hall, and on its other side is the chapel sharing the axis of the aula.

The chapel's fabric consists of a reinforced concrete frame, with pink brick infill. The form is rather complex. Firstly there is a short but wide nave of three bays, forming a transverse rectangle, which abuts the above-mentioned walkway. The bays are separated by exposed concrete piers, and there are thin horizontal window strips below the roof eaves. The roof is gabled, and is in a bright red composition. The near gable peeps over the walkway, and has a round window.

The sanctuary is narrower than the nave, and has two storeys of three bays. The bays of the first storey are not separated by piers in the side walls. These side walls each have a row of five vertical rectangular windows with concrete sills. The second storey is narrower, and narrows further towards the back wall -that is, its side walls are at a diagonal. This storey is low, and has its side walls in the same style as those in the nave. However, the walls below the window strips are so low that they only contain a few courses of bricks.

The roof of this storey is pitched, and shares a ridge-line with that of the nave. The exposed roofing of the first storey to either side is flat.

The far wall of the sanctuary is blank.

In between the nave and sanctuary is an unusually-shaped transept. The far end of each nave side wall angles out at 120 degrees, then turns twice at the same angle to join the side wall of the second storey of the sanctuary (running over the flat roof of the first storey). These angles create a bastion of three faces, two short and the middle one longer and which diverges from the major axis by sixty degrees. The short walls of each bastion each have a vertical rectangular window, while the main long wall is blank. Each bastion has a pitched roof, with the gable roof-line running back to join the main roofline along the chapel's major axis. Above the level of the first storey roof, each bastion is occupied by fenestration creating a very large window.

Interior Edit

The pitched roofs are formed of stepped concrete beams. This is supported by "arcades" created by massive support piers on each side, each of which is flanked by a pair of diagonal beams springing from the same base.

The windows have semi-figurative stained glass which seems to depict Biblical scenes. The transept ends are side chapels, with St Joseph on the left and Our Lady on the right. These have modern figurative altarpiece sculptures.

External links Edit

Congregation's website

Info.roma web-page

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