Nostra Signora di Fatima a San Vittorino is the later 20th century Italian shrine to Our Lady of Fatima, comprising a main church and a separate chapel. It is on Via Ponte Terra next to the old village of San Vittorino, and is the easternmost church in Rome. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.
This church is in the municipality of Rome, but belongs to the diocese of Tivoli.
The Oblates of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Oblati di Maria Vergine) is a clerical congregation founded at Carignano in Piedmont in 1826 by Pio Brunone Lanteri. They founded a seminary on the San Vittorino site in 1962, dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. A chapel was built in an excavation like a little quarry, and so was called the cripta although none of it was actually below ground level. The architect is given as Giannone, and the consecration was in 1964.
The chapel became a focus of popular devotion, and as a result a new shrine-church was proposed in 1970. The funds for this came mainly from the donations of the faithful. It was designed by Lorenzo Monardo, and completed in 1979.
The day of consecration was 13 May, the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fátima in Portugal. This ceremony also involved the making of religious vows by the first Oblate Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima, a new congregation of sisters set up to run the shrine. The congregation has kept its Generalate or international headquarters at the shrine, but has spread to Portugal, Brazil and Sri Lanka.
The foundation of the shrine can be credited mainly to the work of Gino Burresi, one of the lay oblates here who became an extremely popular spiritual director. He was being referred to as a "second Padre Pio" (St Pio of Pietrelcina), and enjoyed a reputation for miracle-working before his ordination as a priest in 1983. However, in 1988 he was accused of being a sexual predator who had targeted seminarians and who had abused the sacrament of penance. The outcome of the accusations was not satisfactory, as he was neither convicted nor formally cleared. However, as a result his relationship with his congregation broke down and he left it in 1992. Then he was instrumental in the foundation of a new congregation, the Servi del Cuore Immacolato di Maria which now run the Roman parish of Sacra Famiglia a Villa Troili. In 2005 he was prohibited from exercising a public priestly ministry by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (see here), in response to accusations of abuse of the sacrament of penance and fake mysticism (not sexual abuse). The history page on the shrine's website does not mention him.
The original little chapel, standing in front of the church, was rebuilt in 1989. After the Fatima visionaries Jacinta and Francisco were beatified in 2000, it was re-dedicated to them. It now functions as the Cappella dell'Adorazione.
Layout of shrine Edit
The layout is simple. The main church has a circular plan, and its major axis also provides the axis of symmetry for a large fan-shaped paved piazza in front of the church. This is paved in dull red, with the fan-ribs in white and with a white M for Maria in the mouth of the church entrance.
In front of this in turn is a large C-shaped hedged bower on a lower level, the mouth of the C facing away from the church. It contains the little Cappella dell'Adorazione, which replaced the original chapel here. Interestingly, the chapel does not stand on the major axis but is to the left hand side within the bower.
In front of the bower is the main car park, in which stands a colossal white marble statue of The Risen Christ on a concrete block pedestal.
Behind the main church, to the right, is the rather alarmingly poor-quality single-storey headquarters of the Oblate Sisters (Oblate). Further to the right is the much better red-brick three-storey accommodation of the Oblati.
The shrine is in a rural location, with the old village of San Vittorino next to it. However, an Autostrada runs close by just to the north, so expect a background traffic hum. The gardens of the shrine are neither very extensive nor particularly well kept, but contain a very good set of fifteen separate aedicules for the saying of the Rosary. Each one contains a realistic polychrome depiction of the appropriate Mystery in majolica tiles.
Cappella dell'Adorazione Edit
Exterior before 1989 Edit
The flat-roofed Sixties "cripta" chapel had the plan of an irregular octagon, and approximated to the shape of a coffin with the narrow end at the back. It was within a shallow excavation in the natural ground level, which was left as a rather scruffy bank enclosing the chapel on three sides.
This edifice was basically demolished in 1989, and rebuilt with a proper crypt. The earth banks around it were cut back, tidied up and planted with hedges to create a bower.
Before the remodelling, the structure was a simple one in concrete slabs, with a small horizontal rectangular window under the overhanging eaves of the flat roof in the two near sides of the hexagon, and two such windows in each of the longer far sides. There was a little gabled campanile or bell-cote for one bell over the right hand side of the far wall. The frontage was recessed, forming an open porch flanked by continuations of the side walls which supported a continuation of the roof. The single entrance had ornate doors decorated in a diaper pattern, flanked by a pair of little vertical rectangular windows
Exterior now Edit
The crypt has little windows at ground level. Above, the original small eave windows have been replaced by larger vertical rectangular windows halfway up the walls. The latter are now in blocks of a creamy colour, except the back end which houses the sacristy and which has been left in grey concrete. The roofline does not overhang, but has a simply molded cornice.
There is now no campanile.
The chapel is surrounded with random fragment paving ("crazy paving", as the British call it) in red stone.
The new façade is fairly impressive, if a little fiddly to describe.
The design feature has been kept of recessing the actual frontage within the side walls and roof. The roofline cornice has a semi-circular bite out if it in the middle, and this is covered by a little glass saucer semi-dome. The ends of the side walls are only partly clad in the cream-coloured blocks, leaving each inner edge unclad and with the ends of the blocks forming a stepped line.
Within the space of the porch is a semi-circular apsidal structure, in the same cream-coloured blocks and with an entablature. This fits in below the roof, but the curve sweeps out from beneath just in front of the little glass semi-dome. The frieze has a vertically stepped pattern formed by inserting a line of white tiles at an angle. This structure has a large cut-out in its centre, creating a void in the shape of a stepped pyramid with four steps of decreasing height, the last one breaking the entablature.
The semi-circular wall has a vertical slit aperture on each side of this void, springing from a larger ground-level aperture of two steps which contains a square stone planter with ribbed sides and placed in the space diagonally. Outside the façade a similar echo occurs with a low outwardly curved screen wall having three steps at either end and containing a three-step pyramidal aperture with a larger planter.
The actual frontage of the chapel within the semi-circular wall is in pale blue. The single entrance has a marble door-case, flanked by a pair of thin vaguely Corinthian columns supporting an oversized segmental pediment with its ends chopped off. This has its pediment carved with rays as if emitting from a yet-risen sun in the door below.
The door itself is in bronze, with reliefs sculpted by Gabriele di Jagnocco in 1990. They depict the Angel of the Eucharist, who featured in the apparitions (see the altar in the main church), accompanied by Our Lady to the left and Pope St John Paul II to the right. The latter had a great personal devotion to the shrine at Fátima.
Former interior Edit
The chapel interior formerly formed a single space of five bays, the last one being the sanctuary. These were separated by roof supports each formed from a pair of massive slab piers engaged with the side walls, melding with an equally massive transverse slab-beam. The piers had an inwards batter on their inner edges, and the lower edges of the beams have a very shallow inverted V.
The altarpiece was a picture of Our Lady of Fatima.
Present interior Edit
The chapel now has an interior having a central nave with side aisles. The ceiling is shallowly vaulted in white, the vaulting arches springing from square piers revetted in polished travertine limestone slabs. The floor is in polished red stone.
The sanctuary is now apsidal, the apse curve being very shallow. The wall here has a crucifix, and a round sunburst-style bronze tabernacle to the right. It is otherwise blank, in a cream colour. The triumphal arch also has a very shallow curve, and the piers flanking it are pilastered to provide its springing.
This is a place of quiet prayer, and visitors are asked to respect this. Unfortunately, the chapel is sometimes found to be locked (hence the above description of the interior is skimpy).
Main church Edit
The impressive main church is in the form of a tall incurved cone which is a local landmark.
The core of the design lies in four pairs of enormous vertically curving reinforced concrete slab-ribs, which define the cardinal directions of the cone. Three of the pairs are close together, but the fourth flanking the entrance are wider apart. In between the vanes formed by these pairs of ribs, the concrete surface of the cone is clad in metallic tiles. The eight ribs come together at the top and are joined there by a ring-beam containing a lantern skylight. The front pair of ribs is continued slightly higher to support a large metal rod cross finial.
The four pairs of ribs sweep on beyond the limits of the circle of the church's plan to reach the ground. The front pair and the two side pairs clasp entrance portals, which are large concrete vaults having a low parabolic transverse curve and also curving up longitudinally to follow the curvature of the ribs. The two side ones are smaller than the main one in front, which is enormous.
The side and back pairs of ribs are infilled with stained glass, but the front pair (being wider apart) contains metallic tiling.
If you go round the back of the church, past the sacristy which is a low flat-roofed circular pill-box in concrete, you will find that the back pair of ribs terminate not in an entrance but in a large rectangular panel suspended off the ground and bearing a mosaic mostly in blue which has the crowned monogram OM (Oblati Mariae?). Above this, a spindly metal latter runs up in between the ribs and in front of the stained glass window to reach the top of the church.
The quadrants of the church's circle defined by the four pairs of ribs each have a clasping structure in the form of quarter-circle with a slightly out-curved concrete wall and with a continuous row of square windows below the roofline. The metallic roof of the church continues uninterruptedly over these. These four structures contain side aisles and galleries.
Layout and fabric Edit
The interior is a simple circular space, not very large, but as mentioned there are four curved side aisles with galleries over them. These galleries sit on an enormous ring beam that holds the church's framework together.
The eight ribs of the edifice are as prominent inside as outside. They, the solid balustrades of the galleries and the ring-beam are in dark grey concrete but the other surfaces are in an off-white. The floor is in a polished dark red stone.
Colour is provided by the bright stained glass by Ugolino da Belluno, who is a Franciscan Capuchin. It fills the spaces between the side and back ribs, and also the entrance portals including the doors. The designs are semi-abstract, based on symbols associated with Our Lady, the Eucharist and the Passion.
The Stations of the Cross are a set of sixteen beaten metal reliefs by Gabriele di Jagnocco 1984. As well as the traditional fourteen representations, two depicting The Institution of the Eucharist and The Resurrection have been included.
The free-standing altar is in white marble, on a circular black marble platform with three steps. The frontal has a cross in gold mosaic.
The altarpiece is a completely gilded sculptural group showing the Angel of the Eucharist offering the tabernacle to Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco, the visionaries of Fatima. This work is based on a vision that they had, and is by a Milanese sculptor called Montagutti. The tabernacle door is in pale and dark blue enamel with a cross motif, by Ettore Paganini.
The altar is flanked by a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and a crucifix. The former is on a bronze stand by Giovanni Battista Arialdi of Genoa, and the design is based on a tree in which Our Lady appeared to the visionaries. It bears images of the sun, which featured in the famous "Miracle of the Sun", the Hand of God the Father (a very ancient iconographic symbol) and three doves which here symbolise peace as well as the three visionaries.
The two pulpits or ambones are by the same sculptor, and bear symbols referring to The Gospel of St John on the one hand, and The Synoptic Gospels on the other.
The sanctuary is open from 7:00 to 19:30.
Transport details are here.
Mass is celebrated (shrine website, July 2018):
Weekdays 8:00, 10:00 (not July or August), 17:30 (18:00 in DST);
Sundays and Solemnities 9:00, 10:30, 12:00, 16:30 (17:30 in DST), 18:00 (18:30 in DST).
The Divine Office is celebrated publicly on Sundays, with Lauds at 8:30 and Vespers at 17:30 (18:30 in DST, and not on the first Sunday of the month).
On the first Sunday of the month, there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 15:00 (16:00 in DST), followed by a procession before Mass.
On the third Sunday of the month (except July to September), there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at 15:30 (16:30 in DST), followed by Benediction before Mass. This is especially for sick people.
On the 13th day of the month from May to October, there is a torchlight procession followed by Mass at 21:00.
Confessions are heard:
Daily 8:30 to 12:00, 16:00 to 18:00 (19:00 Sundays and Solemnities).
Other facilities Edit
This is a rather quiet shrine, and the facilities are correspondingly rather limited. At especially quiet times, especially in winter, you may only find the main church open.
Rooms are available for pre-booked meetings and conferences, and the Cappella dell'Adorazione is available for liturgical celebrations by small groups of pilgrims. These can also stay at the shrine hostel, the Casa di Spiritualità "Padre Pio Bruno Lanteri".
There is a restaurant with bar (Bar Ristoro del Pellegrino), but the opening of this depends on how many pilgrims are expected to be about. However, the village of San Vittorino is very close by in the event that it is not open.
A shop selling books and religious items is open 9:15 to 12:00 and 16:00 to 18:30, but is closed on Mondays.
The Oblati have an Ignatian spirituality, and offer guided retreats within this framework at the Casa di Spiritualità.