San Frumenzio ai Prati Fiscali is a late 20th century parish and titular church at Via Cavriglia 8 to the west of the suburb of Tufello, in the Val Melaina zone just east of the Via Salaria. There is an English Wikipedia page here.

The dedication is to St Frumentius.

History Edit

St Frumentius is venerated as the apostle of Ethiopia, together with his companion Aedisius. They were shipwrecked on the Eritrean coast towards the end of the 4th century, and became influential courtiers of the kingdom of Axum which occupied what is now western Eritrea and Tigre. After returning to Egypt, St Frumentius was consecrated first bishop of Axum. The present Ethiopian Orthodox Church is his direct descendent.

The parish was established in 1968, but had to wait for a permanent church. This was designed by Eugenio Abruzzini, and completed in 1984. It is part of a complex of parochial and social facilities, built as a single project.

The church was made titular in 1988, and the present cardinal priest is Alexandre José Maria dos Santos.

Recently the Suore Missionarie della Consolata, which had a convent locally, lent their chapel of Santa Maria Consolata to the parish to use as a subsidiary Mass centre. This was done pro bono, and apparently no permanently binding agreement was entered into.


The church is a low edifice, which has been described as tardamodernista or "late modernist". This may be fairly accurate as regards the use of materials, but the layout is not. The "flawed symmetry" of its plan is postmodernist.

The plan is basically semi-circular, although the building is not bilaterally symmetrical on the main axis (that is, entrance to altar). The diameter of the semi-circle is occupied by the wall behind the altar, and is at a slight angle to the major axis. This is the public façade of the church, rather than the entrance, because it faces across the busy Via dei Prati Fiscali from a rise. The central third of this wall bows outwards to form a large apse, and the left of the apse (looking from outside) is a narrow wall inserted at an angle, containing vertical rectangular windows and with a small vertically bowed (convex) section with three windows in the bow, and two in the flat bit adjacent.

The exterior walls of the diameter and apse are in white, and apart from two other vertical rectangular windows at the left hand corner are blank and undecorated. A subsidiary annexe is attached to the right hand side, containing sacristies.

The roof of the church is complex in design. To the left and right of the apse, it is flat. However, the apse roofline has deep overhanging eaves which form a shallow U-shaped curve, and the roof from this set of eaves runs up a triangular slope to a point occupied by a cross finial. The geometric shape of this part of the roof is a sector of a circle, and it gives the impression that it will slip off at any moment. The main roof, beyond these three zones, is bounded by radii of the semi-circle running from the sector, just before its finial, to the curve of the semi-circle. The main roof itself has a slight reverse pitch, with a gully running along the major axis and sloping down from entrance to sector. From this gulley the roof slopes up to the circumference of the semi-circle like the wings of a butterfly, and from the street one can see two acute angles between the diameter wall and this roof. These are occupied by window strips.

The curved exterior of the church has three horizontal zones. At ground level, there is a blank white wall. Above this is a floating balcony, running all the way round, white with a dark grey stripe along its bottom edge. Above this in turn is a row of rectangular stained glass windows recessed into slab frames, and then comes the overhanging edge of the roof.

In front of the left hand side of the diameter wall is a bronze sculpture entitled Abbiamo trovato il Messia ("We have found the Messiah"). In the garden adjacent there is another sculpture, of Our Lady. Both are by Andrea Martini.


The layout of the interior resembles that of a Greek theatre squashed flat, with the seating arranged in four sectors separated by aisles and focusing on the altar in front of the apse.

The interior walls and ceilings are mostly exposed concrete, but the floor around the altar is in cerise blue. There is an ambulatory aisle running round the curve of the semi-circle, separated from the main worshipping area by concrete pillars tapering to their bases. Above these is a curved concrete architrave, and above this in turn is a row of rectangular stained glass windows below the ceiling.

The spectacular bronze Stations of the Cross in the ambulatory are by Andrea Martini, a Franciscan priest and a noted sculptor in the metal. As well as the traditional Stations, he has added four at the beginning: The Entry into Jerusalem, The Last Supper, The Agony in the Garden and The Kiss of Judas. At the end he has added The Resurrection, Noli Me Tangere, The Walk the Emmaus, The Primacy of Peter, The Ascension and Pentecost.

The series of sixteen stained glass windows in the row under the roofline are by the priest Massimo Tellan. They depict:

The Creation of Adam and Eve; The Fall; The Promise to Abraham; Moses and the Burning Bush; King David; The Prophet Isaiah; St John the Baptist; Our Lady and St Joseph; The Four Evangelists; SS Peter and Paul; The Works of the Kingdom; St Frumentius; The Trinity.

The complexity of the roof design causes a fascinating interplay of angles and planes in the ceilings above the space for worship, which is another nod in the direction of postmodernism.

The apse is decorated by a row of seven figures in a neo-Byzantine iconic style. Although without backgrounds, they occupy the places allotted them in a traditional iconostasis. Christ in Glory is in the centre, being venerated by Our Lady, St John the Baptist, SS Peter and Paul and the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. These figures were painted by Luciana Siotto. The text to the right of them reads Nell' angustia gridarono al Signore, ed egli li fece usuri dalle loro angosce ("They cried to the Lord in their need, and he rescued them from their distress"), which is a quotation from Psalm 106.

Behind the altar, to the left, is displayed a genuine 12th century Russian icon diptych representing the Annunciation. To the right is the baptismal font, a low hexagonal basin in two sectors, and the tabernacle in the form of a shining sun with wavy bronze rays. This is being adored by a bronze angel by Martini.

In the far right hand corner is a shrine to Our Lady of Hospitality (Madonna dell'Accoglienza) with a bronze statue of her by Martini again. This is a copy of one he executed for the Church of the Cenacle in Jerusalem. The windows here are in the form of ladders sloping inwards.

In the left hand end of the ambulatory is a chapel of the Crucifix, which here is a bronze relief by Martini.

Unusually for a modern church in Rome, the parish has made available online a very good gallery of photos of this edifice of which they are obviously proud.

Access and liturgy Edit

Church Edit

The 92 bus from Termini will get you here.

Mass is celebrated in the church (parish website, June 2018):

Weekdays 9:00, except Wednesdays in winter when it is at 19:00;

Saturdays and eves of Solemnities 19:00;

Sundays and Solemnities 8:00, 10:00, 11:30, 19:00 (in summer, the 10:00 and 11:30 Masses are replaced by one at 11:00).

Lauds is celebrated at 7:45 Monday to Friday, but 8:00 on Saturday.

There is Rosary at 18:30 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament takes place on Wednesdays between 17:00 and 22:00 (19:00 to 20:00 in July and August).

Chapel of Santa Maria Consolata Edit

The subsidiary Mass centre of the parish is at Via Piero Foscari 52, to the east of the train station of Nuovo Salario.

Mass is celebrated here:

Daily at 18:00.

On Sundays and Solemnities there is also Mass at 9:00, and 12:00 (not summer).

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Parish website

Parish's photo gallery

Info.roma web-page

Roman Despatches - blog with gallery

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