Cappella delle Suore Serve dei Poveri del Beato Giacomo Cusmano is a mid 20th century convent chapel at Via dell'Imbrecciato 103 in the Portuense quarter.
The "Servants of the Poor" (Suore Serve dei Poveri) were founded at Palermo in Sicily by Bl Giacomo Cusmano in 1880. He had been a medical doctor before becoming a diocesan priest in 1860. As such, he founded several support centres for poor and destitute people in Sicily, starting with Palermo, and called these the Boccone del Povero or "Mouthful of the Poor Man". This was before there was any social security provided by the island's government (based then in Naples).
The Suore Serve were founded to help run these centres, and acquired Boccone del Povero as a nickname. They are still widely known by it.
The congregation has become international -see the map here. In response, in common with many similar active sisterhoods, it built a monumental new Generalate or headquarters in Rome in the late Fifties (by the look of it -could be later).
As well as the Generalate staff, until recently the Rome convent housed a retirement home called the Villa Cusmano, and a school called the Istituto Mater Gratiae. Again like many similar Generalates at Rome, this one is now instead a holiday hotel (Casa per ferie) which the sisters have called Eden Cusmano.
Layout of convent Edit
This is one of several huge and monumental Generalates built for active sisterhoods in Rome in the mid 20th century.
The plan of the complex is symmetrical. The main part comprises two rectangular wings joined at a very oblique angle, with the latter facing the street. This ensemble is flat-roofed, four-storey with a fifth attic storey at the angle and half the length of each block. The style is fairly ugly, with a reinforced concrete frame in dark grey, window frames and continuous balconies in white and the infill walls in pink brick.
Abutting the outer angle is a six-storey tower with a trapezoidal plan, from which run two further blocks at the same angle as the main ones but reversed, so that the overall plan of the complex is an X. These additional blocks are two-storey.
The chapel is inserted into the angle between these two latter wings, not quite abutting the central tower but having a narrow two-storey area between which is structurally part of the pair of two-storey wings. The latter abut the chapel either side of its sanctuary.
Appearance of chapel Edit
The chapel is large, and could easily be a parish church.
The plan is that of a trapezium, with the back wall shorter than the frontage and the side walls diagonal in the plan. The elevation is very high, about the same as the five storeys of the back range of the convent. There seems to be a crypt.
There is a nave of six shallow bays, and a deep sanctuary. The nave bays are defined by thin dark grey reinforced piers, supporting gable beams angling over each bay. The infill is in the pink brick, and each bay side wall has a single large and tall vertical rectangular window. The tops of these windows are angled to match the beams above
The sanctuary, in contrast, is revetted in white limestone and each side wall has a row of three smaller vertical rectangular windows with their sills on the flat roofs of the abutting convent wings. This limestone revetting continues in a strip below the nave roofline and above the nave bay gable beams, and joins with that of the façade and a strip down the near corner of each nave side wall. Above each gable beam in the nave side wall is the protruding end of a concrete roof beam.
The gabled façade is revetted in white limestone, in large slabs. Every other course of slabs has the individual slabs left with a gap between it and its neighbours, creating small window slits. This revetting surrounds a huge, triangular topped window with a protruding concrete frame and nine vertical fenestration strips separated by concrete mullions. This window is above a flat-roofed floating canopy, itself over a patio approached by a flight of stairs. A statue of Our Lady (?) is on the canopy, but towards its rear and not easy to see.
The roof is complex. There are two gable pitches, one for the nave and a lower one for the sanctuary. The ridge-lines of both slope down from front to back. The sanctuary roof is plain, in a grey composition. The nave roof is slightly higher, and each side has five and a half shallow triangular lunettes the tips of which do not reach the ridge-line. The sides of these recessed lunettes have thin window strips.