San Pio da Pietrelcina is a 21st century parish church which has a postal address at Via Giorgio De Lullo 97 which is in Malafede, a new suburb east of Casal Bernocchi in the Acilia Sud zone, south of the Via del Mare.
The main car park is on the Via Paolo Stoppa.
The church's patron saint remains perhaps more familiar in English-speaking countries as Padre Pio, which is Italian for "Father Pius". His proper name in English is "St Pius of Pietrelcina", as Franciscan friars replace their surnames with the name of the place where they were born or brought up.
However, in English he is often referred to as "St Pio" or even, horrifyingly, as "St Padre Pio" which is simply ignorant. (Even in Italian he has been referred to in print as San Padre Pio, which is ignorance of a higher order since the Italians should know better.)
The church here was a belated replacement for the deconsecrated early 19th century farmstead chapel of Santa Maria del Carmine dell'Osteria di Malafede. The parish was set up in 2000, after a new suburb was laid out in previously very thinly inhabited location.
The church was designed by the partnership Studio di Architettura Anselmi ed Associati, with the supervision by Alessandro Anselmi. It was begun in 2007, and was completed in 2010. It is one of Rome’s newest churches.
The church is set away from the street, on the far side of a large trapezoidal grassed piazza. Sensibly, the planners provided a dedicated car park next to the street and from this a wide stone-paved path leads to the main entrance. Another narrower path leads to a side entrance at the left hand end of the church's façade, and the two paths form a V. Unusually, the architects have managed (so far) to dissuade the planting of trees and shrubs, so the grassy area is rather bleak. The obvious intention is to emphasise the striking shape of the façade.
The wider civic presence of the parish complex is surprisingly poor. The suburb here consists mainly of five-storey apartment blocks, which shield it very effectively from distance views.
The church itself is a stand-alone edifice on a transverse rectangular plan.
The parish centre occupies a triangular plot on the left hand side of the piazza. Two long wings occupy the piazza and far diagonal sides, while the street frontage near the car park has a large aula or multi-purpose meeting hall on a trapezoidal plan.
A covered corridor runs along the frontage of the parish wing facing the piazza, and in between it and the church. Then it carries on as a free-standing structure, turns a right angle and runs behind the church to a free-standing tower campanile. Beyond this length of the walkway is a wide stairway leading down to a sports field.
The church is noteworthy for having no structural walls. In fact, the entire structure resembles one half of a bivalve sea-shell in that the roof curves to the ground on both sides.
The skeleton of the fabric is formed from steel beams, on which the roof is laid. The latter is concrete covered in pearly-grey ceramic tiles.
The spectacular elevation of the frontage is formed from three parabolic arches of different sizes in one broad white-painted metal strip forming the roofline, with the centre of the strip recessed between continuous flanges. Two arches form the left hand side of the façade, the middle one having a vertical axis and being the highest, and the left hand one having its axis tilted to the left and being half the height. The right hand side of the façade is a low sweeping arch with its axis tilted to the right.
The roofline strip reaches the ground at either end of the façade, but not either side of the central arch. Here, it forms two sharp angles between the three arches. These two angles rest on a rectangular blank white wall bearing a dedicatory epigraph, and this wall extends a little way under the left hand arch and more further under the right hand one.
A short distance beyond its right hand edge is the main entrance, which has glass doors within a protruding open-fronted white concrete box inserted under the right hand arch. The glass panes here are square. A vertical row of square glass panes flanks this box, in between the main screen wall mentioned and another shorter wall to the right.
When you go through the doors here, you will find yourself in a little lobby with another set of door leading into the main body of the church. This second set is skew, since the left hand wall of the box is shorter than the right hand one.
The rest of the façade under the roofline is filled mainly with long rectangular clear glass panes, replaced in places with a semi-random pattern of white panels.
Back end Edit
The curve of the roof gathers up the three arches at the front, and merges them into one low arch at the sanctuary end. The roofline has the same style of white-painted flanged beam as the façade.
The wall here is a large white panel, completely surrounded by rectangular window-panes in clear glass with some panes again replaced with white panels. In this wall behind the altar is a vertical slit stained glass window to the right. To the left is another separate wall, much lower.
There is a free-standing campanile at the back of the church on the right hand side, a white concrete tower on a square plan. One half of the square host four solid walls, and the other half has just its far side occupied by a wall leaving a large gap. Diagonal struts connect the detached wall to the rest, and the bells hang exposed at the top of this space.
Layout and fabric Edit
This church follows the trend set (or hyped) in Rome by the now rather notorious Dio Padre Misericordioso, presenting a monochrome white interior with clear glass windows. The roof is a multi-curved white surface, absolutely unadorned. However, the floor is in polished travertine limestone slabs of a warm light brown hue and this provides a contrast.
As mentioned, the church has the unusual plan of a transverse rectangle. The sanctuary is not structurally separate, but occupies a wide segmentally shaped platform raised on three steps. Just to the right of this is a cubical open-fronted concrete box, inserted into the back glass wall at an angle. This is the baptistery.
The left hand side of the worshipping space has a suspended trapezoidal horizontal canopy, formed of a grid of white squares. Apparently this was intended as the weekday worshipping area -although part of the rationale for having a structurally separate ferial chapel is not having to heat the whole church on winter weekdays.
Occupying the counterfaçade to the left of the main entrance is an elevated choir gallery, accessed via a flight of open steps.
The sanctuary furnishings -altar, priest's seat, lectern or ambo and font- are in rough-carved limestone blocks. The altar is in the form of a parallelepiped. It, and the ambo, bear high relief abstract carvings resembling tree roots.
There is a statue of Our Lady on a white column to the right in the sanctuary.
The otherwise blank white wall behind the altar bears a traditional and rather old-looking painted wooden crucifix. A vertical window strip to the right of this contains pale green glass.
According to the parish website (July 2018), Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 9:00 (not Mondays in summer), 19:00 (only Mondays in summer);
Sundays and Solemnities 10:00, 11:30 (not summer), 19:00.
These times may change.