Sant'Antonio da Padova delle Suore Francescane dell'Immacolata Concezione di Lipari is a mid 20th century convent chapel at Via delle Benedettine 36 in the Della Vittoria suburban district.
There are three congregations in Rome with the name Suore Francescane dell'Immacolata Concezione! Hence, this one is always referred to as Lipari because that is where it came from. The other two are from Palagano and Mexico City.
The convent contains three institutions, a Generalate (headquarters), a school and a retirement home. The latter two are dedicated to St Anthony of Padua also.
The idea of founding a congregation of female Franciscan tertiaries dedicated to works of active charity has been such an attractive on in the last four centuries, that the Diocese lists seventy-four different congregations in Rome with Francescane in their names (some of these are Poor Clare contemplatives, however). Obviously different founders in various places had the same basic idea, but what was lacking in the wider Roman Catholic Church was any system of co-ordinating and consolidating such activities once the nascent congregations spread beyond their local areas.
The foundress was Florenzia Profilio from the island of Lipari off Sicily. Her family emigrated to New York, and she became a Franciscan tertiary with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany at Allegany NY in 1900. However, she was inspired to return to Lipari in 1905 to found a separate congregation of Franciscan tertiaries there.
The congregation spread only to Sicily before the Second World War, opening five convents there. However, in 1945 it was decided to establish a presence at Rome and Assisi and to try for a missionary outreach. The latter led to a presence in Brazil from 1953.
The policy of the Holy See in the mid 20th century as regards active congregations with international commitments was to ask them to establish their Generalates (headquarters) at Rome. The Lipari sisters responded by building a large new convent, and moving their Generalate in 1956. Many other similar congregations did the same.
The congregation has actively promoted the cause of their foundress, and hopes to have her canonised.
In 2018, the Diocese listed the congregation as having 99 sisters in 30 convents with four of them at Rome. The Rome convent then contained the Generalate, called Madre Florenzia and an infants' school called Scuola Paritaria Sant'Antonio. There is also a small retirement home for eight women, the Casa di Riposo Sant'Antonio.
The local parish is Nostra Signora di Guadalupe a Monte Mario, which is apparently still providing chaplaincy services (other parish priests in the Diocese have withdrawn from such work).
Layout and fabric Edit
The convent is a chaotic and rather messy congeries of various edifices in different styles.
The chapel is a church-sized building, structurally on a simple rectangular plan. The nave has four bays, and there is a narrower trapezoidal sanctuary apse. The edifice is abutted by convent buildings on all sides, and the apse is incorporated within a range at the back.
Only the upper part of the right hand side wall is open to the exterior, and here there are two windows of an elongated hexagonal form.
The roof is pitched, and is in a dark grey composition.
Unusually for a Roman convent of this period, the chapel faces directly onto the street and has a civic presence. However, only the façade is visible.
The entire façade is covered in large, finely cut limestone slabs. These are laid in courses, with the vertical joints very tight. However, the horizontal joints are wide and in a black filler which creates a striped effect. There are twenty-one courses from the bottom plinth to the top of the main façade.
However, the top has a pseudo-pediment which is substantially narrower and consists of four further courses. The upper three are cut to give a gable. This feature is false, as there is nothing behind it.
The façade has no decorative features or embellishments. A row of five large but narrow diamond-shaped windows, almost touching each other and without frames, occupy the middle zone.
The single entrance has a porch. A pair of pink brick pilasters flank the doorway, and these are matched by a pair of piers in front. These support longitudinal square concrete beams, themselves supporting two slabs creating a tall triangular canopy. Over the doorway within is a mosaic of St Antony with the Christ-child, on a golden background.
The double doors are panelled with diagonal strips of wood, and on each is superimposed a black cross.
The interior is all in white, but the floor has a wide central stripe of what looks like black marble tiling. The rest of the nave floor is tiled in a cream colour.
The nave has galleries, which are supported by floating concrete beams fixed to wall piers. The gallery frontages are in blank white like most other wall surfaces, but the balustrades are in what looks like wooden wickerwork. The galleries create narrow side aisles to the nave.
An unusual feature is that the ends of the gallery frontals angle inwards, widening the aisles. This hints at former side altars at the ends of the aisles, but if they existed they were removed during a remodelling after 1970.
The sanctuary intrudes into the nave, including these side aisle ends. It is raised on one step, and is entirely paved in black marble. The simple free-standing altar has no frontal, and stands on a second smaller platform.
The back wall of the apse has the tabernacle. It is inserted into a revetment in yellowish marble with grey stripes, which is trapezoidal in shape. The actual tabernacle is surrounded by a device in green marble recalling the Crown of Thorns, comprising three concentric circles with radial rays. The corners of the apse house two large traditional polychrome statues venerating the tabernacle, St Francis on the left and Our Lady as a young woman on the right.