San Giovanni Battista a Monte Mario refers to a large mid 20th century monastery chapel, together with its much smaller 19th century predecessor, at Via delle Benedettine 50 in the Della Vittoria suburban zone.
The dedication is to St John the Baptist.
The monastery here is an abbey, ruled by an abbess. The ancient tradition of the Church has been to refer to the main place of worship of an abbey as a church, never as a chapel.
However, the canonical definition of a church requires it to be freely accessible by members of the public at set times. Here, this has resulted in the place of worship being regarded by the Diocese as, in effect, a private chapel. The monastic community here keeps enclosure and, although it seems that members of the public can attend Mass on Sundays and major feasts, there is no routine access for visitors.
So, the main place of worship is the Cappella maggiore and its smaller forebear, the Cappella minore.
The monastery is the direct descendent of one founded at Subiaco in 1578 by Benedictine nuns (Monache Benedettine di San Giovanni Battista - Subiaco). They took over the old church of San Giovanni Battista, including a fine 11th century tower campanile, and built a new convent next door.
Unfortunately, the church and convent were bombed in 1944 and thoroughly destroyed. The campanile became loose rubble. The damage was so bad that the nuns decided to re-locate to Rome, and so built a new monastery after 1945 in the grounds of the Villa Robilant. This was a 19th century country estate. The nuns took over the stables, and converted them into a chapel -the present Cappella minore.
A proper, large place of worship had to wait until the nuns had raised the necessary funds.
The nunnery, in turn, founded a daughter monastery back in Subiaco in 1997 (although not on the original site).
The community opened an infants' school after their move, but this is now defunct and the nuns are now entirely contemplative.
Cappella maggiore Edit
The main chapel is a large two-storey brick building, on a rectangular plan. The first storey is a ground-level crypt, with the main church above. The edifice is in very high-quality pink brickwork, with a cavetto cornice (looking rather Ancient Egyptian). The roof itself is pitched and hipped, its four faces being outwardly curved. It seems to be in a grey composition, and sits on a low attic above the cornice.
A major design feature consists of four turrets attached to the corners, each occupying three sides of a square set diagonally to the major axis and reaching up to the cornice. These have their own little metal caps, separate from the main roof and directly above the cornice which is taken around the top of each tower.
These four towers are matched by a further four triangular bastions, on the plan of half a square or a right-angled triangle. Two of these are attached to each side, dividing the side elevations into three equal bays. Like the towers, each of these bastions has its own cap and has the main cornice taken round its top.
The division of the exterior into three corresponds to the nuns' choir, at the back, the sanctuary in the middle and the nave of the externs at the front. The schoolgirls used to be accommodated in the last.
The fenestration mainly consists of large segmental lunette windows, rather shallow and each divided into three by a pair of small vertical brick piers. There is one of these over the main entrance, one on each side in the near and far bays, one at the back over the nuns' choir, one in the front of the roof attic and one tucked under the main roof on each side of the middle bay. The roof has a gable over these last two. Also, the attic has a row of windows in each side of the near and far bays. A large vertical rectangular window occupies the outwardly facing side of each corner tower, and the side facing the middle bay of each side bastion.
Because of the crypt, the main entrance is approached by a long and wide flight of stairs leading to a trapezoidal patio. There are smaller side entrances in the tower frontages facing this. The tower to the left is also the terminus of a covered corridor from the former school.
The pink brickwork is left exposed in the interior. The sanctuary is raised in between the front nave and the choir, and is flanked by sacristies which reduce its width. Over these are two galleries.
Cappella minore Edit
The abbey's buildings are arranged around a large garden courtyard or cortile (not a cloister). If you look across this from the left hand side of the main chapel, you will see what looks like a two-storey edifice with a pitched and tiled roof, the first storey being rendered in pale tan and the second one in white. The first storey has small round-headed windows in pairs, while the second storey has four large round-headed windows.
This edifice is the original abbey chapel, the former villa stables now called the Cappella minore. You can tell it is a place of worship by the very odd campanile perched over the frontage, to the right. This has a rhomboidal plan, wedge-shaped. The frontage abuts the next courtyard range, at a substantial angle and three sides of this campanile respect that alignment. The fourth is parallel to the transverse axis of the chapel.
The other ecclesiastical feature is the semi-circular apse that the nuns added to the stables, with a tiled roof in six triangular pitches and two pairs of the round-headed windows already mentioned.
The liturgical celebrations here are private, but apparently the community's Mass on Sundays and Solemnities can be attended by members of the public. This is at 9:00 in summer, and 10:00 in winter.