Cappella delle Suore della Santissima Madre Addolorata is an earlier 20th century convent chapel at Via Paolo III 9 in the Aurelio quarter.

The dedication of the congregation is to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her aspect of Our Lady of Sorrows.

History Edit

The "Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother" (Suore della Santissima Madre Addolorata) is a native Roman congregation. It arose from the foundation of the Salvatorian family of religious, itself founded at Rome by Francis-Mary-of-the-Cross Jordan, an expatriate German priest. He had founded the male Salvatorians in 1881, and collaborated with Mary-Frances-of-the-Cross Steitel to found a female branch in 1883.

Unfortunately, the two of them fell out and the nascent community broke off relations with Fr Jordan to become independent under the Diocese. This arrangement was formalised in 1885, which counts as the foundation of the congregation. The sisters decided to focus initially on home nursing care in the city, and to avoid problems with enclosure they affiliated with the Third Order of St Francis (Franciscan Tertiaries). Health care remains central to their charism.

They also took over the sacristy of the newly restored Santa Maria della Pietà in Camposanto Teutonico, an arrangement that continued until 1920.

The original headquarters were in the Borgo Santo Spirito, but the cramped premises were unsuitable. Since the congregation had grown rapidly, especially among German emigrants in the United States from 1890, it had the resources to build a sumptuous new Generalate (headquarters) in 1925. This is just south of the western tip of Vatican City.

Despite its origins at Rome, the congregation has exploited its German roots in its expansion. It spread to Germany, Austria, the Caribbean, Brazil (to which many Germans emigrated) and Tanzania (a former German colony).

Like many other female congregations with Generalates in Rome, the nuns here now run part of their convent as a pilgrimage hotel, the Casa di Accoglienza Tabor. This was opened in 1997. However, unlike many other congregations there are several sisters here, not just a tiny number (or even just one). In fact, the congregation has experienced an increase in numbers over the last decade, which is unusual -318 in 71 convents in 2008, 383 in 68 convents in 2018.

Exterior Edit

The chapel amounts to a full-sized church, to a vaguely neo-Renaissance design. This, with the convent, was obviously a very expensive project and the style suggests that the scheme was entered into before the First World War.

There is a nave of four bays, with side aisles ("three naves", in the Italian idiom). Then comes a sanctuary of a single bay, as wide as the central nave. This has a very shallow segmental apse, which is embedded in a wing of the convent abutting the chapel at its far end. One of the two main blocks of the three-storey convent abuts the fourth bay of the nave and the sanctuary on the left hand side, and these two blocks enclose a courtyard to the left of the chapel.

The chapel stands over a crypt. Unusually, it has a substantial campanile perched on the central roof-ridge just behind the façade gable.

The fabric is presumably in brick, but is fully rendered in a pale yellow colour with architectural details in white. The roofs are pitched and tiled, the side aisles being single-pitched.

The central nave walls, above the aisles, each have five blind pilasters supporting a thin architrave and a strongly projecting roofline cornice. There is no frieze, but the architrave is posted over the pilasters. Each bay has a single round-headed window.

The side aisle walls have five Composite pilasters, supporting a roofline entablature with posts. Each bay has a single round-headed window.

These windows are recessed within dished surrounds, but don't have proper frames

The campanile is in the form of a kiosk, with a tiled pyramidal cap on a projecting cornice. Each side is mostly occupied by a recessed panel, into which an arcade of two arches on square piers is fitted. The piers and side pilasters of this arcade have double tile imposts. Above the arcade is a pair of round apertures with proud frames, arranged horizontally.

Façade Edit

The chapel is parallel to the street, and faces over a large garden beyond a paved entrance area for the convent, which continues as the convent courtyard mentioned above. All this paving is in brown and white blocks, laid in an attractive fish-scale pattern.

The façade has two storeys, above a plinth behind which is the top of the crypt. The first storey has four gigantic Composite pilasters, the inner pair doubletted along their outer edges. These support an entablature the frieze of which has the epigraph B[eatae] Mariae Matri Dolorosae ("To Blessed Mary Mother of Sorrows"). Then comes a broken triangular pediment, into which is inserted the second storey which fronts the central nave.

The second storey has a pair of blind pilasters supporting a crowning triangular pediment containing a small round window which lights the chapel's roof void. The pilasters are doubletted along their outer edges, but only above the edges of the broken pediment of the first storey. A row of three identical tall round-headed windows occupies most of the space between the pilasters.

Interior Edit

Nave Edit

The interior is mostly in a pale orange-yellow, with architectural details in white. The flooring is in pale brown veined marble tiles.

The side aisles are separated from the central nave by columns in grey-veined Carrara marble, having derivative Ionic capitals. The semi-circular archivolts, which are thin and unmolded, spring from tile imposts on these.

Above the arcade on each side is a floating cornice bearing pilasters dividing the bays, and these support a flat wooden ceiling. This has large square coffers, and is mostly varnished wood with gilded and painted decoration.

The side aisles are, however, vaulted. The vaulting springs from semi-columns (quarter-columns in the corners) in the same style as the arcade columns. These support transverse arches separating the bays, and each bay has a cross-vault. The panels of the vaulting are painted to resemble stucco decoration involving rosettes and vine scrolls.

The windows have stained glass in a traditional style, depicting saints.

Presumably the far ends of the side aisles once had side altars, but each now has a quarter-cylinder white free-standing screen bearing an icon. St Joseph with the Christ-child is to the right, and Our Lady of Sorrows to the left.

Sanctuary Edit

The sanctuary was substantially remodelled after 1970, and the old altar was removed completely.

The plain modern free-standing altar is on a platform with three steps, the steps intruding into the nave. Both the sanctuary bay and the shallow segmental apse behind have a triumphal arch, in the same style as the nave arcade arches but with semi-columns and much taller -the front arch almost reaches the nave ceiling. The sanctuary bay has a barrel-vault between these, completely plain except for a pair of side lunettes.

The apse is now completely occupied by a huge fresco in a semi-abstract style dominated by greyish-brown hues with patches of bright colour. The theme is the Crucifixion.

This work surround the circular tabernacle, This has a frame assembled from rectangular pieces of silvered steel sheeting, arranged orbitally. A large matching crucifix is also in the sanctuary.

External links Edit

Official diocesan web-page

Congregation's website

"Tabor" website

Info.roma web-page

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