San Giuseppe di Cluny is a 20th century convent church at Via Angelo Polizano 38 in the rione Monti, just west of the Via Merulana and east of the Domus Aurea.

The dedication is to St Joseph. Apparently the crypt has a separate dedication, to Our Lady of Lourdes.

Status Edit

Despite having the form of a fully-fledged church with campanile, the Diocese now considers this to be a private chapel without any external pastoral function.

History Edit

The complex was designed by Luca Carimini in a rather severe, vaguely neo-Renaissance style. Construction was between 1884 and 1890 for the Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny.

This is a French missionary sisterhood founded at Cluny in 1807, at a time when the great abbey church there was still being plundered for roadstone.

The Generalate of the congregation is in Paris, but the convent here is the Rome headquarters. In 2014 there were only two sisters resident, and the convent was functioning mostly as a pilgrim hotel.


Layout and fabric Edit

The church's plan is based on a short rectangle, with an attached five-sided apse. The left hand side wall parallel with the street, but the right hand wall is attached to the convent buildings. There is a crypt at ground level, hence the actual church is raised above the street.

The nave and apse roofs are pitched and tiled, and the exterior walls are mostly in red brick with a few architectural details in travertine limestone.

Façade Edit

The entrance is accessed through a pair of iron gates in a screen wall (the street number 36/A is next to these). Turning left, one is faced with the crypt entrance with a stone-framed circular window above it. To reach the doorway, one ascends a double set of transverse stairs beginning to the left and right outside this entrance. These have a return before reaching the church entrance, and have open balustrades enclosing fretted ironwork with a quatrefoil design.

The single entrance has a prothyrum or open external porch, on four Ionic grey granite columns the inner two of which are engaged with the façade wall. They support an arched canopy with a flat roof, the sides and spandrels of which are decorated with a cross-and-roundel motif. The intrados of the arch is coffered, and the roofline has a strongly projecting cornice.

The façade itself is two-storeyed, separated by a thin stone string-course running at the level of the porch roof. The corners of the first storey are occupied by a pair of square brick Doric pilasters with their own projecting brick cornices above the capitals, and in between these pilasters and the entrance is a pair of smallish round-headed windows in brick. Immediately either side of the entrance is a pair of framed round-headed stone niches with scallop decoration in their conchs, and above these is a pair of small rectangular windows with triangular pediments. The cornice of the porch is carried over the latter.

The second storey has two recessed round windows in dished stone frames, either side of a central round-headed window flanked by two Corinthian semi-columns and with a triangular pediment. This arched window is flanked by a pair of arched niches, these with pilasters in the same style and with semi-circular tympani above crowned with acanthus leaves. The outer corners of this storey again have square pilasters, with stone plinths and capitals and supporting an entablature and triangular pediment entirely in brick, including the dentillate cornice. There is a round window without a frame in the pediment.

Side elevation Edit

The left hand street wall is very high because of the crypt, which has a stone string course marking its ceiling line.

The main church is lit by six arched windows in the left hand side wall in two rows of three, one row above the other.

Unusually for a Roman church, the altar end is decorated with pilasters identical to those on the corners of the first storey of the entrance façade as well as an identical pediment, and the same design of pilaster occupies the corners of the polygonal apse. All these pilasters are connected by an entablature. Below it in the apse walls are arched windows, and above it are round windows with fretwork mullions having a Greek cross design.

Campanile Edit

There is a campanile towering above the convent building next to the church, a square brick tower with the bell-chamber having arched soundholes and stone framing for each face. There is an octagonal spirelet in lead, crowned by a ball and cross.


The crypt has a reproduction of the grotto at Lourdes.

The interior of the main church has a central nave with side aisles, separated by pinkish marble Ionic columns supporting a pair of horizontal entablatures. Over the aisles are galleries for the sisters, and at the ends of the aisles are side altars.

The sanctuary occupies the polygonal apse. Above the high altar is a wall aedicule containing a statue of St Joseph, and the entablature above this has a text Ergo docete omnes. The apse conch is divided into five panels by four stone ribs, and displays frescoes depicting the Ascension. A super-frieze showing the Lamb of God together with other sheep representing the Apostles is in between the conch and the entablature.

External linksEdit

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