Cappella di Villa Sacra Famiglia is a mid 20th century Fascist-era hospital and former convent chapel at Largo Ottorino Respighi 6 in the Della Vittoria quarter.
The dedication of the institution is to the Holy Family.
The complex was founded as a private hospital by the Camillians in 1946. This order of clerics regular were founded by St Camillus de Lellis at Rome in 1582. The official name is Clerci Regulari Ministeri Infirmaribus ("Regular Clerics, Ministers to Sick People"), which accurately summarises their purpose. This originally included all kinds of medical and nursing practice as well as spiritual ministry. They are based at La Maddalena, and (oddly) run the parish church of San Camillo de Lellis.
The Camillians held a central place in the city's rather chaotically administered heath care system under the papal government until its overthrow by the Kingdom of Italy in 1870. The new city authorities took about half a century to put the local hospital network on a modern footing, and unfortunately the Camillians were not involved in the planning or management of this. This was because of the adversarial stance taken by the Holy See over the government of Rome until 1929 and the independence of Vatican City -see Roman Question.
A further problem for the Camillians was that the massive advances in medical care and knowledge meant a corresponding increase in the training requirements of future medical practitioners, and this was onerous when combined with the training necessary for the priesthood (clerics are necessarily ordained).
The Fascist government made substantial investments in the city's public hospitals, and after 1929 the Camillians were involved in providing spiritual care. See Santa Maria Salus Infirmorum and Cappella dell'Ospedale San Filippo Neri.
However, the Camillians at Rome were reluctant to be relegated wholly to the status of hospital chaplains. Partly in response, the order opened a private hospital or clinic in the northern part of the Della Vittoria quarter -the Centro Camilliano di Pastorale Sanitaria. This project was finished in 1946.
The medical facility remains as a private clinic and nursing home (casa di cura) with 70 beds.
However, it is now run by the International Hospital Group (its name in Italian). The Camillians have kept charge of the chapel, and use it for many of their congregational liturgical events. It is more convenient than La Maddalena, especially as regards car parking. Nevertheless, there are no no Camillians resident here (according to the Diocese).
Layout and fabric of complex Edit
The clinic-convent complex is extensive. It comprises two units in the plan, obviously originally intended as the convent (left hand side, facing from the entrance) and the clinic (right hand side).
The clinic has a three-storey transverse entrance block, and a four-storey longitudinal main block running from the back of the left hand side forming an L. The entrance block is continued by a two-storey connecting range to the left, and this abuts the two-storey convent block which is structurally rather complex but on an overall rectangular plan. There is an interesting apsidal belvedere overlooking the attractive and mature garden.
The fabric is mostly in brick rendered in a dull pale pink, and the roofs are mostly pitched and tiled -the front connecting range has a flat roof, however. The style could be described as very vaguely neo-Classical, without the usual decorative elements.
The convent block, the front connecting range and the main clinic block occupy three side of a square cloister, which has arcaded covered walks on all four sides. The chapel occupies the fourth, far side and has its frontage facing the cloister garth. Narrow two-storey ranges connect it to the buildings on either side, forming the fourth cloister range with it.
Chapel layout and fabric Edit
The chapel is a full-sized church edifice, having a single nave of five bays. The sanctuary has a very shallow bay slightly narrower than the nave, and a semi-circular apse of the same width. The main nave roof is pitched and tiled; the sanctuary bay roof is also, but is lower and continues as the apse roof which is pitched in six triangular sectors.
The exterior is straightforward, in pink render with four white-framed round-headed windows in each side wall of the nave. The first nave bay has no windows, as it is abutted by two-storey ancillary buildings.
The sanctuary with its apse shows evidence of remodelling, as it has seven blocked round-headed windows below the eaves. Two fenestrated windows are in the sides of the shallow sanctuary bay, below these
There is a covered walkway wrapped around the apse.
The chapel has no campanile.
The frontage, peeping above the cloister walk, has three round-headed windows in a row with the central being larger. A white string course runs across the façade and over the curves of these windows.
The interior is mostly in white, with the side walls having a high dado in pale brown marble. The nave bays are divided by pilasters, but these are not distinguished and are in the same white as the rest of the nave walling.
There is stained glass in all the windows.
An organ gallery over the entrance, and the low frontage of this is also in white with row of shallow round-headed recesses, enlivened by a few rectangular ones.
The sanctuary is a contrast. The dado is in grey marble, and the sanctuary wall is revetted in huge panels of red marble reaching from the dado to the conch entablature, and these have been cut from the same block so as to show a symmetrical decorative veining. The panels are separated by green marble pilasters, not proud and framed in white. The conch itself is all in white.
The sanctuary has a triumphal arch, with a pair of gigantic pilasters in green marble.
As per usual, the altar has been brought forward and is now free-standing. It has no frontal, but the mensa is supported by four pairs of little yellow marble columns.
The tabernacle and altar aedicule are in place at the back of the apse. The tabernacle, gradini and the wall below them, belonging properly to the high altar, are in white marble with polychrome inlays. The gradini have a pair of little Gothic baldocchini or pavilions occupying the ends, each with four tiny yellow marble columns.
The altarpiece frame is Gothic, in gilded wood and having three pendant pointed arches, intricately carved. It surely does not belong to the church, but must have come from elsewhere. The altarpiece painting depicts The Holy Family, in a realistic style.