San Cosimato in Ostiense is a 20th century Fascist-era convent church at Via Ambrogio Contarini 10, in the Ostiense quarter north-east of the train station of the same name. This is in a small, quiet suburb tucked into an angle of the old city wall. A picture of the church on Wikimedia Commons is here.
The dedication is to SS Cosmas and Damian.
The convent at Trastevere was expropriated by the Italian government in 1891, as the buildings were required for a new public hospital -the Ospedale Nuovo Regina Margherita. Initially the nuns found a refuge at the monastery of San Gregorio Magno al Celio -but their website records the fact that the Camaldolese monks resident there were not welcoming. Tragically, the nuns were initially not allowed to take the contents of their old monastery with them with the result that many art treasures were looted.
In 1920 their residence on the Coelian was also expropriated, and so the community (numbering twenty-one) moved to a sixteen-room house in a rural location on the Via Aurelia. This seriously inadequate property was a lodging-place while a permanent monastery was built on the Viale Vaticano, just on the extreme western tip of Vatican City. This was ready in 1926.
Amazingly, the nuns were expropriated again. This time, the property was sequestered by the Holy See which was building the Pontificio Seminario Romano Minore immediately adjacent. As a quid pro quo, the Vatican authorities purchased a site in Ostiense and built a replacement monastery for the nuns -their website again mentions that the sisters and their ecclesiastical patrons were not properly consulted, and that the result was not very satisfactory.
The community has been here since 1933, and has made improvements to the premises. It now has an attractive website, explaining the way of life and providing some photos and historical information.
Recently (2016), the sisters have made an arrangement with the local parish of Santa Marcella in order to let their church be used as a parochial chapel. This sort of thing is becoming common in Roman convents as the supply of private chaplains dries up. Masses here are now open to the public, and as a consequence there is no longer a morning Mass on weekdays in the parish church.
1926 convent Edit
The convent building erected for the sisters by the Franciscans in 1926 is still there, at Viale Vaticano 43. It is a three-storey neo-renaissance block of some dignity, but giving no indication that it was once a monastery. It is completely overshadowed by the enormous seminary building next door.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church has a U-shaped plan. After an entrance portico there is a short nave with a flat roof having a parapet, and with each side wall having a shallow segmental apse occupying the full height. The sanctuary follows at a lower level with the same type of roof, and this has an integral semi-circular apse.
There is a pair of round-headed windows flanking the right hand nave apse, and two smaller ones in the right hand wall of the sanctuary. The left hand side of the church joins on to the convent, which is an ugly and irregularly designed multi-storey edifice of very little charm.
The church and the convent buildings were entirely rendered in a rather alarming brick-red colour, although recently some of the exterior wall surfaces have been repainted in a dull pink.
The sisters have an attractive set of gardens.
The entrance façade is dominated by a stark and monumental entrance portico, in the form of a gigantic arch and intimidating in its simplicity. It is almost as high as the church itself, has the proportions of a railway viaduct arch and has no decoration apart from an incised line halfway between the outer and inner edges and a cross finial on top. It encloses a tall arched stained glass window, with the same proportions, above the entrance door.
Mass is celebrated publicly (parish website, June 2018):
Sundays and Solemnities 8:00.
There is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays from 8:00 to 12:00, and on Sundays from 16:00 to 17:30 (this is after Vespers celebrated by the nuns).