Nostra Signora di Sion is a later 20th century former convent chapel, now part of a college, at Via Garibaldi 28 in Trastevere. There is a side entrance, rarely used, at Via Nicola Fabrizi 2.
The Sisters, Religious of Our Lady of Sion (Suore, Religiose di Nostra Signora di Sion) were founded in 1843 by Marie Theodor Ratisbonne, along with his brother Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne. The aim, as the congregation's Constitutions put it, is "to witness in the Church and in the world that God continues to be faithful in his love for the Jewish people, and to hasten the fulfilment of the promises concerning the Jews and the Gentiles". Marie-Alphonse was famous in Rome for his sudden conversion after a vision of Our Lady at Sant'Andrea delle Fratte.
A new Generalate (headquarters) was built in 1962 on the slope of the Janiculum, the architect being Giò Ponti. This was kept up until 2015, when it was decided to sell it and move the Generalate into smaller premises at Via Ambrogio Traversari 21.
The premises now have the clunky English name of "Rome Centre (CUA/ACU) with the British English spelling of "Centre" rather than the American "Center". Presumably this was a trade for the CUA having its initials first.
The architect showed his talent in this little convent complex. Three flat-roofed multi-storey blocks of differing heights are inter-linked around a small irregularly pentagonal cloister. within gardens having mature trees. The fabric has reinforced concrete frames, concealed behind walls in very fine yellow brickwork.
The chapel has its own architectural identity. It is on a heptagonal (seven-sided) plan, slightly stretched along the major axis and with the back angle extremely oblique so that the plan is almost hexagonal.
It is a low structure in the same yellow brick, with a flat roof below low parapets formed by the tops of the walls. The angles are occupied by thing white concrete piers The far right diagonal wall abuts one of the convent blocks, and the near left diagonal abuts a cloister walkway.
The three exposed sides each has a strip of clear windows running between the corner piers. The far left hand set has a very shallow downward angle to the sill. The back set, behind the altar, is interrupted by a central wall section at the far angle.
The single outside entrance is a shallow porch in white stone blocks, with a steep gable that protrudes above the parapet of the chapel behind. The door is tightly fitted into a recess also with a triangular top matching the gable, and this recess is rendered in a pale orange. There are three stone steps approaching the door.
The interior is very simple, all in white. The floor is in a dull pink composition. The sanctuary has a platform in grey granite, fitted into the three far angles and with an oblique angle to its front step. A free-standing altar is on a smaller platform, all in the same material. A plain varnished wooden screen in vertical planks occupies the back of the sanctuary.
Access and liturgy Edit
The chapel remains a private place of worship, with regular Sunday Mass for the students and occasional weekday Masses. Other events are organised "as and when", by the students themselves.