The dedication to St Basil.
The diocese prefers the simple name of San Basilio, and this is generally in use. However, this leads to possible confusion with the historic church of San Basilio agli Orti Sallustiani and so the suffix Nuovo has been used in modern descriptions.
The locality is not named after the church, but the other way round. Before suburban development began immediately before the Second World War, the rural locality had a farmstead called the Casale di San Basilio. This is now a villa off the Via del Casale di San Basilio, but has been seriously confused with the Torre del Coazzo which is now a set of ruins in a park at the north end of the Via Bernardino Bernardini.
Look for a driveway from the junction between the Via del Casale di San Basilio and Via Antonio Provolo. The edifice contains late 13th century fabric (apparently a fortified tower), and next to it an ancient villa was excavated in 1930.
The name leads to two suppositions. Firstly, that the property belonged to the monastery on the Aventine dedicated to St Basil, the ancestor of the present Santa Maria del Priorato. Alternatively, that it was the site of a Byzantine-rite monastery in the early Middle Ages. Both of these hypotheses lack documentation or other evidence.
Suburban church Edit
In response to an increase in the local population, a curacy was set up in 1941 and entrusted to the Congregation of the Resurrection at Resurrezione de Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo dei Polacchi. They were in charge when the full parish was established in 1954, but did not persevere and handed over to diocesan clergy.
The area developed into a very messy suburb in the 1950's, with unscrupulous landowners selling farmland for illegal development involving shacks and shanties on unmade streets without utilities or social services. The need for a permanent church became pressing, and Pope St John XXIII took a personal interest.
The design was by Augusto Baccin, noted for being a very capable archaeologist as well as an architect. The church was completed in 1963, but not in time for a visit by Pope St John on 31 March. If the pope's diary had this day reserved for the consecration, it means that there was a delay in finishing because the consecration was only on 22 December and was by Cardinal Luigi Traglia.
The Diocese of Bergamo volunteered to provide priests to administer the parish from 1967, but this arrangement was terminated in 2010 and the parish is back with the diocesan clergy of Rome.
The church looks over an impressive set of public gardens, recently renovated.
The suburb still has a bad reputation, however, among Romans living elsewhere.
The church is on a site away from the street on the other side of a garden. (The best view of the exterior is from the Via Corridonia.)
The plan reveals the architect's archaeological interests. It is actually circiform, being in the form of a U and imitating the layout of an ancient Roman circus. This plan was used by a series of funerary "basilicas" erected by the emperor Constantine, notably San Sebastiano fuori le Mura and Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura -Basilica Constantiniana. Although the scholarly consensus is now that these were not originally churches, in the mid 20th century it was still believed that they were.
The edifice can be described as a single nave of ten bays, and an integral semi-circular apse of five sectors. It stands on a crypt. The nave is flanked by a row of alcoves or side chapels on each side, which do not amount to structural aisles but are add-ons.
Fabric -concrete frame Edit
The structure has a prominent white reinforced concrete frame, infilled with brickwork in high-quality red bricks laid in decorative patterns.
The façade is framed in a massive pair of concrete piers, the side faces of which have a taper above the side chapels. This is a feature of the design. Behind these piers on each side, the nave bays are separated by a total of ten thinner but still massive slab-piers with the same taper. These piers protrude well above the side rooflines, and from each springs two horizontal beams which run diagonally across to the piers on the other side (the façade piers have only one beam each, of course). Thus, above the roof is a network of horizontal beams in the shape of a row of X's. The pitched roof meets the points where the beams cross along the major axis, and is otherwise suspended from them with tie-rods.
The apse has another four such piers. The last nave pier on each side has only one diagonal horizontal roof beam, and this and the far diagonal beam of the second to last nave pier are much thicker than the others. This is because they form a structural node for the four apse beams where they meet at the major axis.
Fabric -infill Edit
The seven alcoves at each side of the nave are each created by inserting a horizontal concrete beam in between each pair of nave piers at the alignment of the main nave wall. To this is attached the gabled concrete alcove roof. The infill of the back wall is above a large horizontal rectangular window at pavement level, which lights the crypt. The bricks are laid decoratively -a course of bricks laid vertically is topped by three laid horizontally and slightly protruding, giving a striped effect. The left hand alcoves of the even-numbered nave bays have pentagonal windows tucked into their gables, but those of the odd-numbered bays have blank walls (all the alcoves on the right hand side have blank walls, because of an appended ancillary building into which some of them lead).
The main nave side walls above the alcoves are also in decorative brickwork, but here the bricks are laid in regular courses with individual bricks protruding to give a diaper pattern. The third, fifth, seventh and ninth bays have a vertical rectangular window high up, and each of the side walls of the tenth bay has twenty little vertical rectangular window-slits arranged in rows of three and two. The other main nave side walls are blank
The apse has its main walls all blank. It also looks as if it has five appended alcoves with the same pattern of brickwork as in the nave alcoves, but these have horizontal rooflines. They are very odd, because they do not connect with the interior.
Fabric -roof Edit
The side rooflines are formed by inserting a concrete gable in between each pair of nave or apse piers, below which is a triangular window.
The actual nave roof has a complex pitch. Each triangular window is the lower end of a triangular lunette, which for the nave roof runs up to a point on the horizontal concrete X-framework above where two concrete beams cross. These lunettes are separated by triangular pitches, each springing from a point on a nave pier and ending on a horizontal ridge-line running along the major axis. The angle-lines between these triangular pitches and the adjacent lunettes have vertical tie-bars joining to the horizontal beams of the framework above.
The apse lunettes are separated by concrete beams instead, meeting at a node at the end of the nave ridge-line.
Parish offices Edit
The church has a single-storey ancillary block attached to its right hand side, incorporating the nave alcoves here. The main parish accommodation is in a rather ugly large block further to the right of the church, separated by a narrow courtyard. Apparently some of the fabric of these side edifices is a good deal older than the church, but the allegation of mediaeval fabric seems to be as a result of confusion with the Casale.
The church has no campanile. Instead, a flimsy metal frame is attached to a low tower at a corner of the main ancillary block. It contains three bells, and has two boards creating a decorative gable on top. This echoes the arrangement for the top of the façade.
The church entrance is approached by a flight of seven steps leading to a stone-paved patio (a reminder that the church is on a crypt). In the garden nearby is a bronze statue of Pope St John XXIII, put up in 1986
The single-storey façade is entirely windowless, in red brick. It has three vertical zones, the central one being slightly wider, and is framed by a pair of enormous concrete piers with sloping side faces. The zones are separated by four ghost pilasters in the brickwork, created by laying the bricks in them in the usual way. In the actual zones, however, the bricks are laid diagonally to give a stippled effect -except for a high dado in which they are laid identically to the side alcove walls and give a striped effect.
The two side zones have rooflines occupied by horizontal concrete beams. However, the central zone has a triangular gable created by two more beams. Two concrete slabs are laid from the tip of the gable to the outer corners of the façade, these having void beneath them.
There is a single entrance, in white concrete. Two broad vertical slabs frame both the entrance and a pentagonal tympanum above it, which contains a mosaic depicting St Basil above a length of floating cornice. A third slab in the shape of a chevron fits over the tympanum. The three slabs have a pecked surface.
The depiction of St Basil in the mosaic is an ancient iconographic one, showing him with a long, pointed dark beard.
The interior fabric replicates the exterior almost exactly, except for the sanctuary. The edifice is tall for its width, giving an impressive monumentality to the single-volume space. This also has a numinous quality, owing to the relative lack of natural light. Most of this is from the triangular windows below the roof, which have clear glass.
The slab piers visible in the nave exterior are also on show here. The alcoves on either side between them are covered by massive horizontal beams in between the piers, and these support the nave infill walls above. These beams are shaped in a shallow inverted V on their lower surfaces, so as to give a gable to each alcove portal matching the concrete alcove roof behind.
The infill walls have the same pattern as the exterior surfaces, with protruding bricks giving a diaper pattern.
The roof has its flat triangular pitches in grey, matching the piers and alcove beams, and its triangular lunettes in white.
The last structural nave bay is part of the sanctuary, which is raised on two steps. This looks as if it was heavily remodelled in the later 20th century. The wall surfaces here are not in naked brick, but are rendered in a dull orange. The last bay of the nave has its walls with tiny windows arranged separately in rows, but the apse walls are blank.
The shape of the beams above the nave alcoves are matched exactly by further beams in the five sectors of the apse. However, below these there are no alcoves but white panels instead. There are spaces behind these (look at the exterior for evidence of them), but the writer does not know what they are for.
A large bronze crucifix hangs on the wall at the back of the apse. Below it now is bench seating for the ministers, in two curves either side of the throne of the presiding priest.
According to the Diocese, the church is open:
Daily 7:30 to 12:00, 16:00 to 20:00.
According to the Diocese, Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:30, 19:00 (not July or August);
Saturdays and eves of Solemnities 8:30, 18:00 (19:00 July and August);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:00 (not July and August), 18:00 (19:00 July and August).
There is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on First Fridays from 18:00 to 19:00, also on Tuesdays outside Ordinary Time (Advent, Nativity, Lent and Paschaltide) from 21:00. In Lent this is supplemented by Exposition from 9:00 to 12:00 and 16:00 to 19:00 on the same day.
(The parish seems to lack a website.)