Madonna del Divino Amore a Via Salaria is a deconsecrated 18th century devotional chapel with an alleged postal address of Via Salaria 267. This actually belongs to the Egyptian Embassy in the Villa Ada. The chapel is near the junction with the Via Archiano, and is in the Parioli quarter (not Trieste, the road is the boundary).
However, it seems that the original dedication might have been to the Crucifix (Santissimo Crocifisso). See below.
The edifice was built as part of an extensive garden layout in the south part of what is now the Villa Ada, commissioned by the Pallavicino princes at the end of the 18th century. The inspiration for this was the classic English garden style promoted by Capability Brown and, as such, included several decorative buildings including this little chapel.
The architect is thought to have been Fabio Puri De Marchis, son of Carlo Puri De Marchis who was responsible for laying out the gardens.
However, the chapel is actually inserted into the boundary wall of the Villa grounds next to the road, and so also had a wider public function. Pope Pius VII granted an indulgence in 1817 to visiting pilgrims who were travelling up the Via Salaria to visit the Catacombe di Priscilla, and it is clear from this that the chapel was the final stop in a series of Stations of the Cross affixed to the Villa wall. The chapel would have come after the fourteen actual Stations, and the Crucifix which was the altarpiece would have been the focus of the indulgenced prayers for the intentions of the Pope which terminate the devotion.
The present Villa Ada estate was owned by the Savoyard royal family of Italy from 1872 to 1945.
The little chapel seems to have functioned until the Second World War. After the fall of the Italian monarchy and the institution of a republic, there was a badly resolved dispute over the ownership of the estate, with the ex-king's descendants being conceded private ownership of the southern portion including the chapel. This part was sold on, and is now (2018) the Egyptian Embassy.
The chapel seems to have been left in neglect from 1945. Some time at the end of the 20th century, failure of the roof over the sanctuary caused the vault there to collapse. Demolition was a real threat, but in 2011 necessary repairs were undertaken.
However, the edifice is still without a function.
The chapel has a simple rectangular plan of two bays, with a little semi-circular apse having a conch. The fabric seems to be in brick, rendered in what used to be a yellow ochre colour although most of the paint has vanished. The present roof has a low gabled pitch, and the side walls have no windows.
The frontage is rather odd. The façade does not occupy the full width of the chapel, but has a campanile attached to its left hand side.
The former has a pair of shallow Tuscan Doric pilasters at the corners, supporting an entablature with a strongly projecting cornice and triangular pediment which does not correspond to the roofline behind. The single entrance has a stone doorcase sheltered by a length of horizontal cornice supported on a pair of little strap corbels. The cornice has the shape of a stretched sarcophagus. There is a gap between the cornice and the doorcase, which looks as if it held a (now missing) inscription.
Above the entrance there is a very large lunette window, which provides the natural light for the interior. A single order of roll molding follows the curve of this. Also, the entrance is flanked by a pair of round-headed grated apertures, low down, with archivolts in low relief having tiny block imposts.
Over these two apertures are two inscription tablets, which have the 1817 indulgence grant by Pope Pius VII in Latin and Italian.
The campanile is square where it attaches to the façade, and looks as if it is in limestone ashlar blocks. Above the pediment cornice is a low cylindrical drum, and then an octagonal bell-chamber with a tiled cap having a strongly projecting cornice. The diagonal sides of the octagon are longer, and the cardinal sides each have an arched aperture in the same style as the low façade windows. The imposts are joined by a continuous simple string course.
The interior had a vault of two bays springing from a pair of vaguely Doric pilasters halfway down the nave, the capitals of which are joined by an entablature which runs round the interior. The far bay of this vault collapsed towards the end of the 20th century, and the intrusion of the weather over several years has caused serious damage.
The floor is laid geometrically in black and white marble, allegedly 17th century salvage.
The little apse sanctuary is raised by one step, and has a pin balustrade incorporating four red marble panels framed in white. The triumphal arch has a pair of piers with capitals incorporating the interior entablature.
The altar is Baroque, and looks as if was sourced from elsewhere -it also seems to be older than the chapel. It is a mensa supported by strap corbels, with no frontal but with a horizontally oval tondo within a sunburst gloria on the wall under it. The aedicule has a pair of thin pink marble Ionic columns supporting a horizontal molded cornice on which is a sculpture of clouds and putti. The columns frame a panel in "alabaster" (probably painted stucco) and two other such panels flank the aedicule.
The altarpiece was a 17th century wood and papier-maché crucifix, which was still in situ when the vault collapsed. Amazingly, it survived well enough to be removed for restoration in 2002.
No chance. After the 2011 repairs, the road entrance was blocked off with a sheet of plywood.