Santa Margherita-Maria Alacoque a Tor Vergata is a 21st century parish church with a postal address at Via Michele Pantanella 5 in the suburb of Tor Vergata, to the east of the city and south of the Via Casilina in the suburban zone of Torrenova.
The church is actually on the newly-named street of Via di Passo Lombardo, and is near Campus X of the University of Rome -Tor Vergata.
The dedication is to St Margaret Mary Alacoque.
The parish began as a curacy within the mother parish of Resurrezione di Nostro Signore Gesù Cristo a Giardinetti, set up in 1970. This was elevated to a full parish in 1978.
The parish community had to worship in temporary premises for the next thirty years, located at Via Antonio Carpenè 41.
The intention to provide a permanent church was helped by Tor Vergata being the location for the World Youth Day 2000 religious festival, and work was begun in that year. The complex was completed in 2005, the architect being Italo Rota. Sacred vessels used at the festival Masses were donated to the parish.
The sculptor Stefano Pierotti had donated a large metal sculpture of Christ to the festival, entitled Morto e Risorto ("Dead and Risen"). Unfortunately this was then dumped on site, neglected and vandalized until a media campaign had it put into proper storage in 2003. It was donated to the parish in 2006, and erected to the right of the church. However, it was not cleaned or repaired -so the sculptor painted it red in protest in 2011.
The parish has a subsidiary church, San Tommaso d’Aquino a Tor Vergata, which is for the University.
The church is perhaps the best in Rome in the Minimalist style of architecture, and is also a good candidate for the modern church looking least like a traditional church edifice.
The complex has three elements. To the left of the church is the rather fantastic "campanile", aligned at sixty degrees to the major axis of the church and with its far right hand corner almost touching the church's left hand side wall just behind the left hand corner of its frontage. From this meeting-point a covered walkway runs down the side of the church to the single-storey flat-roofed priest's house, which is on the same alignment as the "campanile" and has its near left hand corner very close to the far right hand corner of the church.
The is basically a rectangular box with a pitched roof. It is entirely covered in large square tiles in sky-blue, apart from a light grey concrete plinth. This plinth has four pilasters at each end, the outer pair at the corners, and five down each side with the middle three in a group at the mid-line.
The tiling includes the roof. The roof ridge has two large skylights, one at each end and which follow the roof slopes.
The façade has twenty of the tiles over the single entrance in deep red, forming a Greek cross. This was not part of the original design -you will see photos of the edifice soon after the opening without this feature.
The slightly recessed set of entrance doors is topped by a large rectangular window, which has a recessed lintel in the blue tiling. A flat horizontal wooden canopy with chamfered outer corner fronts the window about halfway up its height, and this is supported by a pair of plank corbels attached to the wall longitudinally either side of the door.
The original monochrome effect of the blue tiling is being mutated by mould growing in the grouting, making the grid pattern of the joints more obvious with time.
The weird structure to the left of the church begins with a rectangular two-storey structure in light grey concrete, inserted into a slope in the ground level. The first storey facing the church has a lower row of thin horizontal rectangular windows, and an upper row of circular windows with wide recessed frames. The second storey is set back slightly, and has two rows of recessed bulls-eyes mimicking the windows.
This structure contains the parish offices and also an oratory. Round the back is a little "garden chapel" with a flat roof in turf.
The sill at the top of the first storey is the foundation for an enormous thin-angled prism in clear glass with a skeleton of metal beams. This was intended as the campanile, with three bells hanging in the top, but the bells haven't been hung -the glass would obviously muffle their sound, anyway.
The priest's house is sunk into the ground, facing onto a sunken courtyard with a view over the countryside. It is in concrete painted light grey, but the paint has been peeling.
The interior is small compared to traditional Roman parish churches, and this is a feature of 21st century constructions. It is a consequence of the collapse in Mass attendance in the late 20th century -it is no longer assumed that the majority of the general population will attend Mass.
The décor is almost entirely in white, including the roof the pilasters the lower ends of which are visible in the exterior plinth. The skylights have suspended box-frames which meet with the inner pair of pilasters at each end of the interior.
The side walls each have a row of up-lighters.
The floor gives a welcome dose of colour. It is in poured resin, with zones in different colours. The congregational area is in yellow edged with a wide stripe of green, with white and blue areas down the sides and at the front. The green stripe runs in front of the sanctuary, which is raised on three steps in blue and which has the platform in white.
The floor either side of the sanctuary platform slopes up to the sanctuary level at the back of the church.
A very odd feature of the design is four monumental columns in coloured resin, two flanking the altar which are in dark green and two flanking the entrance which are in dull red. These looks as if they are supporting the skylight boxes but they don't -they stop a few centimetres short.
The sanctuary furniture consists of altar, ambo, a tabernacle on the far wall and a cross (not a crucifix) above it. These are of laminated and vertically stacked wooden planks, with the altar and ambo having incurved cut-outs to the sides.
The church's vestments are apparently noteworthy, being by Marco Petreschi. However the enlarged photographs by Giovanni Chiaramonte, which were originally proposed for the side walls, did not find favour.
As with some other tightly-designed modern churches in Rome, the parishioners have been "claiming the territory" with the aid of polychrome statues and pot-plants (it is they who worship here, after all).
Old church Edit
The old church is still there, to the south at Via Antonio Carpenè 41. It is a prefabricated hut of pale grey concrete panels within thin vertical slot-piers, and has a pitched metal roof. It is better quality than most of these late 20th century temporary churches, being eighteen panels long by five wide.
The campanile is also still there, just to the left of the far end. A pair of metal piers are joined together in a U at the top, from which hangs a single bell which was in place in 2014.
Mass is celebrated (parish website, June 2018):
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:30, 18:30.