Sacro Cuore del Suffragio is an early 20th century parish church located at Lungotevere Prati 12, just east of the Palazzo di Giustizia and in the rione Prati. It is a familiar riverside landmark. A picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons is here

Name[edit | edit source]

The dedication is to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The official name of the church is Sacro Cuore di Gesù in Prati, but the name as given is the familiar one.

History[edit | edit source]

The church was built for the Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by the French Bishop of Marseille. This confraternity was founded by Victor Jouet, a French priest from the same city, who had been impressed by a miracle which had allegedly occurred on the site of the present church.

A small chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary had burned down in 1894, and the only item to survive was a fragment of a mural or a scorch mark (sources differ on this point), showing the face of a soul in Purgatory. Construction of a new church started in 1894, to Giuseppe Gualandi's design, before the new association was officially recognized by Pope St Pius X in 1913. The church was consecrated on 1 November 1917, during the pontificate of Benedict XV, who simultaneously created a new parish for it.

The purpose of the church and the association is to give aid to the souls in Purgatory. Père Jouet also collected documentary evidence, witness testimonies and artefacts demonstrating supernatuaral events which, he alleged, were proof of the existence of Purgatory. Some of these things are displayed in the so-called Museum of Purgatory, which is in a corridor leading to the sacristy. This comprises a row of glass-fronted wall cabinets, which can be inspected by visitors to the church free of charge.

The church remains parochial, and is now served by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart which is a religious congregation of French origin.

Exterior[edit | edit source]

Layout and fabric[edit | edit source]

The church is in the neo-Gothic style, and the main body is in yellow brick with dark grey stone banding. The architectural details and the façade were constructed in reinforced concrete cleverly rendered to look like light grey stonework, with the same dark grey background banding.

The layout consists of a central nave with aisles. The nave is long and narrow, and ends in an integral apse formed from three sides of a hexagon. The roof is almost flat, and is surrounded by a parapet in quatrefoil fretwork and decorated with little pinnacles, seven on each side. These mark out the bays of the nave. 

The aisle roofs are much lower, and have similar parapets. The bays are separated at the exerior walls by pilasters which rise up to large free-standing crocketed pinnacles from which spring flying buttresses supporting the central nave walls. These crocketed pinnacle-pilasters are the primary motif in the exterior design.

To the right of the church is the residence of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

Façade[edit | edit source]

The façade is very ornate, and rather French (most neo-Gothic churches in Rome are in the Lombardic style). There is a single storey, and the design is based on the tall gabled central nave frontage with the lower side aisles having sloping rooflines. There are six of the large pilasters with crocketed pinnacles, two flanking the central nave frontage and two pairs at the outer corners of the aisles. These stand on high plinths.

There are three entrances for the nave and aisles, each having a slightly pointed arch enclosing a tympanum surmounted by a gable and flanked by crocketed pinnacles. The main entrance is larger, and has three orders of slim pink marble columns. The smaller aisle entrances only have two.

The tympani and the gables over the entrances have carved reliefs, the dominant one in the central gable being of the Sacred Heart adored by angels. Below this, the central tympanum depicts the Souls in Purgatory; the side tympani have the Resurrection on the left, and the Deposition on the right. The sculptor was called Orsini, from Bologna.

Above the main entrance is a large six-light window containing wheel tracery in the Flamboyant style, but the smaller aisle windows have three lights each with a cinquefoil. 

The façade is occupied by an amazing number of statues of saints. There are seven on the gabled nave roofline (with Our Lady at the top, as is fitting), each in its own ornate niche which is trefoil and with a steep crocketed gable ending in a cross. Three more are on each sloped aisle roofline. Then, each of the six pilasters has a saint on a corbel, sheltered by a substantially raised floating canopy. That makes nineteen statues of saints in total.

The campanile is part of the façade design. It is an octagonal Gothic aedicule on a plinth, with a little crocketed spire, and is perched just behind the tip of the central nave gable.

The overall effect is thought to mimic the cathedral at Milan, and hence the church has been nicknamed Il Piccolo Duomo di Milano.

Sacro Cuore del Suffragio floor plan.png

Interior[edit | edit source]

The interior is rather narrow but high in proportion, and has a central nave with aisles. Each of these ends in a three-sided apse, which have ribbed half-vaults in their conchs.

The arcades have Gothic arches supported by quatrefoil clustered columns with foliate capitals. These columns are in banded stonework, pink sandstone and white limestone. Above the arcades are single-light Gothic clerestory windows, and three more of these are over the high altar in the central apse. The design gives the impression of great height, and hence of more space than there actually is.

The stained glass in the aisle and apse windows is figurative, and feature saints. The glass is of a sort rather familar to those from countries with a tradition of Gothic church building in the 19th century, but still rather splendid.

The high altar is in polychrome marble and gilded bronze. It has a large modern fresco of the Sacred Heart being adored by the host of heaven (it is not very good). To the sides are frescoes of Our Lady and St Joseph.

The floor has a striking herringbone design, in pink and light grey. The pink marble is from Verona.

Liturgy[edit | edit source]

According to the Diocese, Mass is celebrated:

Weekdays 7:30, 10:00, 19:00;

Sundays and Solemnities 8:00, 9:00, 10:30, 12:00, 19:00.

The feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated on the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost.

External links[edit | edit source]

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

"De Alvariis" gallery on Flickr

r4all gallery on Flickr

Good photo of interior

Info.roma web-page

"Romasegreta" web-page

Gloria TV video on Museum of Purgatory, showing church interior

Italian Wikipedia page on museum

Text and photos of museum on Italian website on purgatory

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