Cappella di Villa Betania is a mid 20th century convent and hospital chapel at Via Pio IV 42 in the Aurelio quarter.
You might find the address "Via Niccolò Piccolomini 27". This is the back entrance of the villa. The latter is accessed by two long driveways.
Name problems Edit
The convent was founded by the "Franciscan Teaching Sisters" (Suore Francescane Insegnanti).
The idea of having a congregation of Franciscan Tertiary sisters dedicated to teaching children has been such an attractive one, that the number of such congregations is well into double figures. This causes serious confusion, especially since many of them have very similar names.
Specifically, this congregation in the United States is being confused with a home-grown foundation with the same name.
Worse, the congregation arose from another one called the Francescane dell'Immacolata. There are SEVEN congregations working in Rome with this name -but not this one!
Foundation of congregation Edit
The remote antecedents of the congregation lie in Graz, Austria, where one Antonia Lampel founded the Franziskanerinnen von der Unbefleckten Empfängnis ("Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception" -Suore Francescane dell'Immacolata Concezione) in 1843.
Back then, Austria was part of the Habsburg Empire, which included Bohemia -now part of the Czech Republic. A group of Czech sisters led by Magdalena Zahalkova went back to Bohemia in 1886, where they made a foundation at Slatiňany. This was the origin of the independent congregation of School Sisters -it is fairly clear, although not publicised, that the separation from the Graz congregation was owing to problems of nationality.
The Bohemian sisters began a very successful missionary outreach among Czech settlers in the USA in 1911. In 1920 they affiliated formally with the Franciscan Friars Minor.
Villa Betania Edit
A huge new Generalate (headquarters) at Rome was begun in 1948, and completed in 1951. The then superior arranged for part of it to be a tuberculosis hospital, with the sisters as nurses -this is a good example of how active sisterhoods founded for one purpose, could diversify into unrelated work under the umbrella of "active charity".
As tuberculosis was rapidly brought under (temporary?) control by antibiotics in the Fifties, the hospital diversified and remained an important private hospital in the city. There was a major improvement of facilities in 1971.
The premises became inadequate for an in-patient hospital as medical standards improved, and the number of acute beds was reduced substantially in re-orderings in 1997 and 2005. A concentration was made on outpatient facilities and recuperative care.
In 2015, owing to declining numbers the sisters formally passed over administration of the hospital to a private firm, Giomi S.p.a. The full title of the institution is now Casa di Cura Villa Betania Giomi.
The DIocese still maintains a chaplaincy post here, and the Generalate of the congregation is also still here.
The Villa is a huge four-storey block on a square plan, containing a large completely enclosed square courtyard or cloister with internal arcade walks. The style is vaguely neo-Renaissance, in pink brick except for the first storey which is in white.
The chapel is the size of a church, and occupies the second to fourth storeys of the north-west range. It has its own façade, although it abuts the rest of the edifice at the back and left hand side where a narrow range separates it from the cloister.
The right hand side wall, in brick, has a row of eight round-headed windows in white frames with another row of square windows above them. The roof is flat, as is the rest of the edifice.
The façade, in contrast with the pink brick elsewhere, is in white limestone. A large round-headed portal is approached by a long flight of steps. There is a shallow crowning triangular pediment (false, there is nothing behind it) and a row of six vertical rectangular windows near the cornice of this. Two more windows are located below the outer two of this row.
This seems not to be the only chapel in the complex.