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Cappella delle Suore di Nostra Signora is a mid 20th century convent chapel at Via della Camilluccia 687 in the Della Vittoria suburban district.

Name Edit

The official name of the congregation in Latin is Congregatio Sororum Nostrae Dominae (SND -Italian: Suore di Nostra Signora), from the original German Schwestern Unserer Lieben Frau. The English name is "Sisters of Notre Dame" not "Sisters of Our Lady" as you might expect; the odd use of the French title of Our Lady is a United States Catholic tradition, dating from the later 19th century when the congregation became heavily involved in that country.

There are several other congregations with the same or a similar name, and there is serious confusion between then. Notably, this congregation has nothing to do with the "Sisters of Notre Dame of Namur", although the latter helped with its foundation and provided an inspiration. The original foundation was at the little German city of Coesfeld, and the name of this is often used as a distinguishing marker.

History Edit

The "Sisters of Notre Dame of Coesfeld" were founded at Coesfeld in 1850 by two lady teachers called Hilligonde Wolbring and Elisabeth Kuling, at a time when laywomen in the teaching profession and the systematic education of girls were still novelties. Their foundation of a religious congregation gave them and their disciples both financial and social security, but unfortunately anti-clerical legislation in 1875 removed the latter as religious were forbidden to teach in public schools. This was the impetus for many of the sisters to be sent to the United States, which was the saving of the congregation. It subsequently spread worldwide.

The sisters built a large new Generalate (headquarters) in Rome in 1953, the architect being Vincenzo Passarelli. Many other active sisterhoods with international commitments did the same at the time, and were to regret the spending of the money as vocations dried up towards the end of the 20th century. In response, many of these Generalates have been re-ordered as holiday hotels (Case per ferie), including this one which is now the Hotel Villa Maria Regina.

Amazingly in the same project, the congregation built a large school nearby in the same street, with its own large chapel by the same architect. The school is now closed and the premises sold. See Cappella di Villa Pacis

However, the Generalate is still located here (2018) -even if the Diocese does not list any sisters in permanent residence (an interesting state of affairs, if not the result of an oversight).

The local parish is Santa Chiara a Vigna Clara. The Diocese does not list the chapel as a place of worship, which means primarily that it does not provide chaplaincy services. It would seem that Mass is not celebrated here regularly, and the chapel does not seem to feature in the hotel's publicity.

Exterior Edit

The convent is a boring single block, parallel to the street and with four storeys. However, the chapel is enormous and amounts to a full-sized church building attached to one end of the convent. It has a civic presence, and one wonders if there was any original intention to have it as a public Mass centre. However, it has always been a private chapel.

The chapel stands over a crypt. It amounts to a pink brick cube on a square plan, having a concealed concrete frame. The roof is pitched and tiled, having four gables (one for each side) so that the ridge-lines form a cross. A narrow, much lower structural side aisle runs down each side. The sanctuary is much lower than the nave, and comprises a single bay with a three-sided apse of the same width, and under the same roof with two main pitches and three triangular sectors.

An entrance range with a single-pitched roof runs across the frontage for the entire width, including the side aisles.

The brickwork is blank, except for a row of ten well-spaced vertical rectangular windows in each wall of the nave just below the gable. The façade of the entrance range is also blank brick, except for a matching row of windows above a large horizontal rectangular portal supported by a pair of concrete piers. This portal is fronted by a little patio accessed by a pair of transverse side staircases, and this because of the crypt.

Interior Edit

The three-sided sanctuary apse is completely covered by a gilded mosaic. The central panel has an ordinary-looking traditional crucifix with a white corpus hanging on it, and this is being venerated by six mosaic angels within a silver glory. The side panels feature twelve virgin saints, six on each side and rendered in a very realistic style. Above them are two Latin text, left: Adducentur regi, virgines post team, afferuntur in templum, regi domino ("They are led to the king, virgins after her [Our Lady], they are brought into the temple, to the Lord the King"); right: Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum, dico opera mea regi alleluia ("My hearty emitted a good word, I speak my works to the king"); Psalm 45.

The original altar is still in place, and is in a neo-Baroque style with an open frontal, the mensa being supported by little coloured marble Corinthian columns. The tabernacle above is sheltered by a miniature baldacchino with matching columns supporting a frieze saying Christus regnat ("May Christ reign") and a hemispherical dome.

External links Edit

Congregation's website

Hotel website

Info.roma web-page

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