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Gesù Buon Pastore alla Montagnola is a mid 20th century parish and titular church with a postal address at Via Luigi Perna 3 in the suburb of Montagnola, which is in the Ardeatino quarter north-east of EUR. The address is for the parish office at the back of the church, the main entrance of which is on the Piazzale dei Caduti della Montagnola. The nearest metro station is Marconi. There is an English Wikipedia page here.

The dedication is to Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd .


The parish of Gesù Buon Pastore was established by Pope Pius XI in 1937, and was placed in the care of the Society of St Paul (known as the Paulines or Paulini, not to be confused with the Paulists at Santa Susanna). This was as a result of personal contacts between Cardinal Francesco Marchetti Selvaggiani and the founder of the Society, Blessed Giacomo Alberione.

The large new parish of two thousand hectares had about five thousand inhabitants, mostly immigrant peasants from the Abruzzi among whom were many made homeless by an earthquake in 1915. They had to do without a permanent church for over twenty years. The foundation of the parish was in response to the laying out by the Fascist government of the Via Cristoforo Colombo in the same year, which was expected to bring massive suburban development.

The temporary place of worship was a garage and workshop around the present junction of the Viale Guglielmo Marconi with the Via Cristoforo Colombo. This was lent to the parish by the Suore di Sant'Anna.

On 10 September 1943, the so-called "Battle of Montagnola" took place in the vicinity. The so-called Armistice of Cassabile of 3 September was, in practice, a surrender by the Fascist government to the Allied powers. In response, German troops occupied those parts of Italy not already under Allied control -the Fall Achse. This included Rome, which the Italian army tried to defend with a total lack of effectiveness. (The Italians call this the Mancata Difesa di Roma). A German detachment advancing from Ostia was ambushed at Montagnola by a mixed group of Italian soldiers and civilian volunteers, of whom 57 (11 civilians) died when they were brushed aside in the skirmish. The Italian casualties here are known as the Caduti della Montagnola.

The parish priest, Don Pierluigi Occelli, conducted a successful campaign to have the piazza in front of the proposed new church laid out as a memorial to those who died. Pope Pius XII declared the new church to be the Tempio votivo nationale della pace, dei caduti e delle vittime di guerra ("The national votive temple of peace, [in memory] of the fallen and of the victims of war"). The "national" part did not cash out in reality, but 162 local war casualties are commemorated who died in the action mentioned and also in one at Cecchignola.

The crypt of the church was dug out and roofed in 1950. However there was then a long delay owing to a lack of funds and disputes with the civic authorities. It was only in 1957 that work continued, mainly owing to the patronage of Cardinal Clemente Micara. The main edifice was to a design by the architect Carlo Bodini, which was executed by Giuseppe Forneris as the engineer. It was finally consecrated on 18 March 1959 by Bishop (later Cardinal) Luigi Traglia. By this time, much suburban development had taken place.

The church was made titular as a diaconate in 1985, with the first cardinal deacon being Jozef Tomko. He was promoted away in 1996, and replaced by James Francis Stafford two years later. He was promoted away in turn in 2008, and replaced by the last incumbent Velasio de Paolis in 2010. He died in 2017, and the title was still vacant in 2019.



The memorial piazza in front of the church is unusually large, with mature stone pine trees. Unfortunately the layout is rather fragmented by car parking, but the main park area contains the monument to the Caduti which is an ancient red granite Corinthian column on a plinth. There is a circular paved area round it, with radial paths leading away and, to one side, a curved wall in rough-cut slate ashlar blocks with a rectangular portal. The names of the deceased are inscribed on tablets.

Layout and fabric[]

The plan is traditionally basilical. After a structurally separate entrance block, there follows a nave of four bays with narrow side aisles. The last bay is flanked by a pair of large longitudinal rectangular side chapels, which give the false impression that the church has a transept There follows a single-bay sanctuary, again with narrow structural aisles (smaller chapels within), and finally a large semi-circular external apse the wall of which is as high as those of the central nave.

The main nave roof is carried over the transept and sanctuary, and is pitched and tiled. The nave aisle roofs are flat, and run seamlessly across the side chapels to the sanctuary aisles. The apse has its own pitched roof, with five sectors.

The fabric is in reinforced concrete and red brick. Apart from the entrance block and the bottom ends of the nave aisles which are in naked brick, the exterior walls are rendered in a pale pink throughout. The second, third and fourth bays of the nave each have a large lunette window in each side, below the central nave roofline. The nave aisle walls on each side begin with a slightly protruding zone in brick, which contains three vertical rectangular windows separated by a pair of molded string courses. (These string courses are a feature of the design, for they run all the way around the exterior.) The aisle rooflines have projecting cornices in white.

Each of the side chapels has a round stained glass window with stone mullions in the shape of a Greek cross, and above on the roofline is a little false gable (the roof behind is flat).

The church stands on a crypt, which has windows in a stone dado along each side wall.

There is a brick frame campanile perched on the top of the far end of the right hand sanctuary aisle. It comprises three tall square brick pillars supporting a platform, on which are two joined vertical rectangular brick frames containing the bells.

The apse has a blank wall with four wrap-round string courses, making it look rather like a factory silo.


The church façade has a railed courtyard in front of it with ornamental paving, comprising a white Maltese cross set into a grey background. A set of steps runs across the entire width of the façade, a reminder that the church is on a crypt.

The stairs are flanked by a pair of large statues in white marble on high plinths. These are by Carlo Pisi, and depict Christ the Good Shepherd and Pope St John XXIII.

The façade is in brick. The central nave frontage is set forward from the aisle frontages, and is divided into three vertical zones of equal width. The outer two have a side entrance each. These are identical, and each is within a little lobby and has a transom lunette window fitted into the lobby's short barrel vault. The exterior wall around the lobby portal is here rendered white, up to a string course which corresponds to the lowest of the two on the church side walls. There are three other string courses above this in the central nave frontage side zones. The middle zone, with the main entrance, is set slightly back from the outer zones and has a white background with no string courses crossing it.

The aisle elevations are in blank brick, with two string courses each.

The monumental main entrance (six metres high) has bronze doors, and a white rectangular door-case enclosing a mosaic above the doors. The doors have four panels in sculptural relief, executed by Teofilo Raggio. The two lower ones depict The Majesty of Christ the Shepherd and Mary, Mother of the Shepherd, with the accompanying texts: Iesu bone pastor, miserere nobis; Virgine interveniente, ad pascua perducamur in coelis; Ego sum pastor bonus et cognosco oves meas ("Jesus, good shepherd, have mercy on us; The virgin interceding, may we be led to the pastures in heaven; I am the good shepherd and I know my sheep"). The smaller panels display the heraldry of Pope St John XXIII and the Society of St Paul.

The mosaic in the transom panel above the main entrance is by Teodoro Licini, and depicts ten sheep drinking from a fountain.

Above the central doorcase is an enormous and spectacular mosaic (90 square metres) by Carlo Mariani, into which is inserted a round window in the same style as those in the side chapel walls. The window separates the mosaic into two subjects: Christ Pantocrator at the top, and Quorum Memoriam at the bottom which shows an angel guarding the graves of the Caduti.



The central nave has narrow aisles (the Italians call this arrangement "three naves", which is a bit silly here). The aisles lead at their far ends to two chapels each. One flanks the presbytery, the other is large and off the side.

The impressive space of the nave is 56 metres long, 24 metres wide and the same high.

The central nave is separated from its aisles by four pairs of tall, unadorned square concrete piers on each side. These support massive longitudinal concrete beams running the length of the nave, from which the concrete ceiling vault springs. Three large lunette windows sit on the beam on each side, and these contain stained glass. The beams bear a bold epigraph reading Ego sum pastor bonus et cognosco oves meas again.

The floor is in grey-veined marble.

The counterfaçade is occupied by a two-storey gallery with solid balcony frontals in white. The round window here has symbols of the Evangelists in the four quarters.

The lower right hand side entrance leads into a lobby with a large fresco commemorating a visit by Pope St John XXIII on 10 March 1963, as a plaque informs you. Another plaque gives information about the completion of the church in 1957 and its consecration in 1959.

The aisle side walls bear enormous frescoes of the Stations of the Cross by Licini. As well as the fourteen traditional Stations, there are four extra depictions which show items associated with the Passion. As well as the Instruments, these include the angel that consoled Christ at Gethsemane, the torches and clubs of his arrest, the cock that crowed, the basin for Pilate's hand-washing, the skull of Adam at Calvary, the torn veil of the Temple and the open tombs of those who were resurrected.

The six confessionals each have two panels (pannelli del perdono) depicting New Testament scenes of forgiveness. They are to designs by Baldi.


The barrel vault of the sanctuary is of slightly smaller radius than that of the nave, and the step-join comprises a concrete triumphal arch. This is frescoed with the Lamb of God at the top and twelve sheep representing the Apostles (an ancient iconographic theme). The vault itself is frescoed with angels venerating the Cross.

The side walls of the sanctuary each have a balcony for musicians, below which is a bronze-covered cement relief by Licini. One shows The Supper at Emmaus, the other The Sacrifice of Isaac.

The sanctuary furnishings, in marble, are the result of a re-ordering in 1994. The sanctuary is raised on two steps, and the altar is on a platform a further two steps higher. The frontal has a cross device in polychrome stone inlay. Behind the altar is a free-standing curved screen of alabaster in pink, orange and pale yellow, on which is set the tabernacle in a black marble surround. Above this is a traditional painted wooden crucifix, and behind the screen the apse wall below the fresco is revetted in grey marble slabs.

The apse with its conch is completely covered by an enormous fresco by Licini and Mariani jointly, of Christ the Good Shepherd. To the left are Our Lady, St Peter and Abel, and to the right King David, St Paul and the prophet Ezekiel. At the bottom are four sheep drinking from the River of Paradise.

In the church is a depiction of The Good Shepherd, attributed by some to Carlo Dolci, and by others to Carlo Maratta.

Side chapels[]

The church's baptistery is in the bottom left hand corner of the nave, with a (disused) direct outside access via the left hand side entrance in the façade. It has stained glass from designs by Guanieri and D"Alessandro, and frescoes by Mariani depicting the rite of baptism. The bronze and copper railings bear liturgical texts relevant to the rite.

The large side chapel to the left is dedicated to Our Lady, Queen of the Apostles. Around her fresco depiction are smaller scenes based on the Rosary, and on the side walls are The Annunciation and The Assumption.

The small end chapel to the left is dedicated to SS Joseph and Anne. Parishioners leave memento mori here. The unusual dedication (to Our Lady's husband and mother) means that it is also allegedly a place of prayer for mothers-in-law and sons-in-law having poor relationships.

The large side chapel to the right is dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. The main depiction shows him in glory, while the side walls show him preaching to fishes, and having a mule adoring the Eucharist.

The small end chapel to the left is dedicated to the Sacred Heart and SS Peter and Paul. The martyrdoms of the two apostles are shown.


The crypt comprises the memorial chapel of the Caduti. It is seven years older than the main building, being completed in 1950, and has its own entrance round the side at Via Luigi Perna 3.

The altarpiece is a crucifix with a ceramic corpus by Raoul Vistoli, accompanied by statuettes of Our Lady and St John.

There are frescoes by Osvaldo Licini. Flanking the altar are two scenes from the fighting at Forte Ostiense nearby. One of these features a famous event, when Suor Teresinia di Sant'Anna successfully confronted a German soldier trying to loot a golden neck-crucifix from a dead Italian. She was beaten, and died shortly afterwards (she was already seriously ill). Two other frescoes show Pope Pius XII during his visit to the bombed basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, and the atrocity at Fosse Ardeatina including a portrait of Padre Pietro Pappagallo.


Mass is celebrated (November 2017, parish website):

Weekdays 7:30, 9:30, 18:00;

Sundays and Solemnities 8:00, 9:30, 11:00, 18:00.

The diocesan web-page differs.

External links[]

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Parish website

Info.roma web-page

Beweb web-page

Roman Despatches blog with gallery