San Saturnino Martire is a 20th century Fascist-era parish and titular church with a postal address at Via Avigliana 3 in the Trieste quarter, in between the Via Salaria and the Via Nomentana. The main entrance is on the Piazza San Saturnino. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here.

Name Edit

The dedication is to St Saturninus, an expatriate from Carthage who was martyred on the Via Salaria outside Rome in the 3rd century. The major part of his relics used to be enshrined at Santi Giovanni e Paolo before being moved here in 1987, to be joined by the rest from San Pietro in Vincoli in 1989.

Do not confuse him with St Saturninus of Toulouse.

History Edit

The parish was erected in 1935 and construction of the church began immediately, to a design by Clemente Busiri Vici. It was only completed in 1940, after some delay in progress.

The church was made titular in 2003. The first cardinal priest was Rodolfo Quezada Toruño, who died in June 2012. He was replaced in the same year by John Onaiyekan.


Layout and fabric Edit

This hulking and rather ugly building is in a rather individualistic style, based vaguely on the neo-Romanesque.

The plan is of a double Latin cross, with two transepts containing side-chapels. One is near the altar, and another near the entrance. After an entrance bay there is the first transept, then comes a single nave of three bays without aisles. The second transept follows, then a sanctuary of one bay with an attached rectangular apse.

The exterior walls are mostly in pink brick, with some architectural details in limestone. The roofs are pitched and tiled. The entrance bay has its own gable slightly higher than the main roof behind, flanked by a pair of small hipped roofs at a lower level. The principal nave roof runs in one ridge over the sanctuary bay. The apse roof is very slightly lower, with a hip. The transept ends have four gable roofs, as high as the central roof.

The nave side walls are interesting. There are two shallow blind brick pilasters, with a pair of half-pilasters in the corners with the transepts. These support a rather deep stone frieze (there is no proper entablature). Each of the three bays has a large window with a half-hexagon top (a design feature of the church), there being a wide stone frame and mullions in the form of a Latin cross. The wall surfaces from top to bottom slope outwards from the vertical zone occupied by each window as far as the pilasters, which means that the nave side walls have a zig-zag plan. Each side wall also has a single entrance in the middle bay, with a stone door-case.

The transept ends have blank walls. The side walls of three of them (not the top left hand one) have deeper stone friezes at the top than the nave side walls, and at each gable end this frieze is taken under the gable with a large incut semi-circular section forming a monumental arch. This arch tops a very shallow conch of three sectors, taken down to ground level by three vertical zones of which the central one is flat and the two side ones slightly angled inwards -look at the low stone plinth on which the transept stands to see this design feature more clearly.

The sanctuary and apse each have a flanking pair of windows in the same style as those of the nave. The back of the apse is a blank wall

A campanile is attached to the top left hand transept end, and is a plain brick tower on a rectangular plan with a transverse tiled saddleback cap. The sound-holes have half-hexagon tops instead of arches. There are two in each long face and one in each short face, and their top cut into a band of stone. In the gable, above the stone band, is a blind relief tondo in the brickwork.

Façade Edit

The monumental façade stands on a flight of steps, which wraps around the corner at each end to access a pair of subsidiary entrances in the side ends of the entrance bay.

The design is single-storey, in three vertical zones. The two brick side zones each stands on a low stone plinth which itself is on the staircase. Each zone is divided into three vertical strips, the central one being a shallow vertical pilaster and the side strips sloping slightly away from it on either side. The arrangement is topped by a simple slab architrave.

The inner side edges of this pair of architraves are the springers for an enormous archivolt which encloses the conch of a polygonal apse of five sides. The two outermost sides of this are very short, and support a brick arch of a slightly greater diameter than the archivolt which fronts it. The apse has a conch bounded by this brick arch, which is in three sectors the central one of which is recessed. It stands on an architrave which is a continuation of the pair in the side façade zones.

The stairs run up into this apse to meet an enormous main entrance with a wide stone door-case, the sides of which are continued upwards to frame a rectangular window with cross mullions in stone. The lintel of this abuts the architrave above.

Above the side architrave and the central archivolt, the frontage is not in brick but is revetted in stone up to the rooflines. There is a central gable, slightly wider than the archivolt below it, flanked by a pair of horizontal rooflines. In the gable is a relief carving of the heraldry of Pope Pius XI, without a shield.


Nave Edit

The interior is not very interesting. It is very plain, and all in white -even the Stations of the Cross. A stained glass window over the entrance has symbols of the Evangelists.

There is a single nave, with four side chapels in the transept ends. The nave ceiling is flat, with wide hollowed-out transverse beams separating the bays which are supported by very shallow blind pilasters in between the windows.

Sanctuary Edit

The sanctuary is raised on steps, and is in the rectangular apse which has a shallowly three-sided top edge to its portal.

Above the old altar there is a relief of the martyrdom of St Saturninus, white on a yellow background and rather oddly flanked by two sets of organ pipes.

The actual relics of the saint are enshrined under the new free-standing altar, under which is a plain rectangular grey-veined marble sarcophagus containing them. This is modern, but the gabled limestone cover looks ancient.

Access Edit

The church is open from 7:00 to 12:00, 17:00 to 21:00 daily (this is for July 2018; the church was open all day in previous winters).

Liturgy Edit

Church Edit

Mass is celebrated (parish website, July 2018):

Weekdays 7:30, 9:30, 19:00;

Sundays and Solemnities 9:00, 10:00 (not summer), 11:00, 12:00, 19:00, 20:00.

In August, the 8:00 Sunday Mass is at the public dependent chapel of Nostra Signora del Sacro Rosario delle Suore Betlemite.

There is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from 10:00 to 22:00 on the first Friday in the month.

External Mass centres Edit

The parish has three external Mass centres:

Nostra Signora del Sacro Rosario delle Suore Betlemite

Santa Priscilla

Santissimo Sacramento delle Religiose Reparatrici Sacro Cuore

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Parish website

Info.roma web-page

Roman Despatches - blog with gallery

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