Santa Maria Addolorata a Piazza Buenos Aires is a 20th century titular and national church, with a postal address at Viale Regina Margherita 81. The main entrance is on the Piazza Buenos Aires in the Trieste quarter. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here. There is an English Wikipedia page here.
The dedication is to Our Lady of Sorrows.
This is the national church for expatriates from Argentina. It is also titular, but is not a minor basilica. Its canonical status is that of a Chiesa Rettoria, which means that it has its own priest in charge. The supervising parish is Santa Maria della Mercede e Sant'Adriano.
Argentina was the first Latin American country to have a national church in Rome. The only other one is Nostra Signora de Guadalupe e San Filippo Martire in Via Aurelia, which is for Mexico. Naïvely, the Diocese also considers this latter church to be for Latin America in general; Italians are not perhaps well-informed as to what the various Latin American nationalities think of each other in general, and of Mexico in particular.
If you're Latin American but not Argentinian or Mexican, you may find a welcome from fellow expatriates in Rome at Santa Maria della Luce.
The project to build a national church for Argentina in Rome was promoted by the Argentinian priest Msgr. José León Gallardo in the first decade of the 20th century. He had been given the pastoral responsibility for the Salario quarter (the boundary between the Trieste and Salario quarters is the Viale Regina Margherita), when this neighbourhood lacked a church. Initially the financial responsibility for the project was his personally, with support from donations from the Argentinian hierarchy.
This was a substantial undertaking, as the church was a costly edifice. Back then, Argentina was the third most important state in the Americas after the USA and Canada, and had developed its economic and cultural institutions to the point where it could be regarded as a developed country. It had received massive financial investment from Europe, especially from the UK where the economy was already plateauing. Also, it had become a favoured destination for mass immigration from Europe including Italy (as the family history of Pope Francis demonstrates).
The first stone was laid on 9 July 1910, the centenary of Argentinian independence. Señora Rosa Sáenz Peña, wife of Roque Sáenz Peña, was present at the ceremony. He was elected President later in the year, and proved to one of the country's greatest statesmen.
Construction took twenty years, the architect being Giuseppe Astorri. Some delay was caused by the First World War, but during this in 1915 the future edifice was formally declared to be the National Church of Argentina. The work was sufficiently advanced in 1924 that Mass could be celebrated in the unfinished building, but unfortunately Mons. José León died in that year. His brother Ángel continued the work, but ceded the property to the Argentinian episcopate in 1929. The church was finally consecrated in 1930.
The edifice is a superb example of the neo-Romanesque architectural fashion that informed the building and restoration of churches in Rome from 1870 to the Second World War. It was thought at the time that advances in scholarship were sufficient to be able to recreate churches as they were in the high Middle Ages (12th and 13th centuries). When it came to restoring old churches, this attitude was disastrously mistaken and serious acts of vandalism ensued (see Santa Maria in Cosmedin). However, new churches built under the influence of this movement were usually edifices of superb quality -at least until the First World War.
The year before the church was consecrated, the Mercedarian order agreed to administer it on behalf of the Argentinian episcopate. Subsequently the order established its Generate or headquarters here.
In 1932 a parish was erected, and from that year to 1934 the church was parochial. However the clash of responsibilities led to the parish being moved to the convent church of Sante Felicita e Bonosa in Via Tirso, which belonged to the Canossian Daughters of Charity. This had been erected in 1918, and after its change of status was given the name of Santa Maria Addolorata in Santa Bonosa. It was replaced by the present Santa Maria della Mercede e Sant'Adriano in 1958.
In 1965, the Mercedarians decided to build a new Generalate, which is now Nostra Signora del Carmelo dei Mercedari. However, they continued to administer the church until 1989 when declining vocations induced them to give it up. The responsibility devolved on the Episcopal Conference of Argentina, which now supplies Argentinian diocesan clergy to minister here. They reside at the Collegio Sacerdotale Argentino adjacent.
This was made a titular church in 1967 by Pope Paul VI, with Nicolás Fasolino (1967-69) as the first cardinal priest. The second imcumbent was Raúl Francisco Primatesta (1973-2006), and the present titular priest is Estanislao Esteban Karlic, from 2007.
Layout and fabric
The church has a classic basilical layout. The nave has seven and a half bays (the half bay is occupied by the organ gallery at the entrance), and has side aisles which are galleried but still lower than the central nave. There is no transept. The sanctuary is a large apse with conch, and the ends of the side aisles have a pair of apsidal chapels.
There is one side chapel, forming a segmental apse near the bottom end of the right hand aisle.
The roofs are pitched and tiled, and the central nave roof is also hipped at the entrance end.
The entrance has a narthex or loggia, under a single-pitched sloping roof.
The campanile is a free-standing tower standing just by the left hand aisle. It imitates the city's old Romanesque campanile, and is in red brick. There are eight storeys, separated by projecting cornices with stone modillions. The second and third storeys have a single slit window on each face, within a recessed blind arch having a double brick frame (all the arches in the structure have this feature). The fourth and fifth storeys have two arched openings, and the sixth has a clockface on each side (the clock was never installed). The last two storeys, containing the bells, have an arcade of three arches on each face separated by stone columns with modillions. There is a tiled pyramidal cap.
A string course runs around each storey at the level of the arch springers, except the sixth. The upper storeys are decorated with green and purple stone plaques in the form of crosses, squares and roundels, a familiar feature on genuine mediaeval campanile.
The façade has two storeys, the first belonging to the internal loggia and the second to the nave. Both are richly decorated in mosaic work, with the wall surfaces being otherwise in highly fired pink brick. The artist was Giambattista Conti.
The first storey has a roofline with an ornate cornice having modillions between two rows of dentillation. There is a portal arcade of three arches, separated by two grey granite Ionic columns. The arch archivolts and the wall area above the arches bear a mosaic with a floral vine-scroll motif of a green background. In the centre is a pair of peacocks drinking from a vase, and over the two side arches are two wreaths with the Marian monogram in Greek MPΘY "Mary, Mother of God". The imposts of the outer two arches is continued across the rest of the façade, which is otherwise naked brick walling. Behind these two walls are square custodian chambers at the bottom ends of the side aisles.
The second storey has a horizontal cavetto cornice. This means that the top bends outwards, so that anybody looking at the mosaic while standing outside the entrance does not see it foreshortened.
The mosaic has two registers. The one above, on the cavetto, has a golden background. It has the Lamb of God on the Book with Seven Seals in the centre, flanked by the symbols of the four Evangelists colourfully rendered. The lower register depicts of four date palms symbolizing Paradise, and twelve realistically rendered sheep on a flowery meadow which symbolize the Twelve Apostles.
The mosaic surrounds a row of three separate round-headed windows with transennae or carved stone fenestration. The central one has a cross motif.
The side aisle frontages have sloping rooflines, and each has a round window with a transenna.
The walls of the loggia are revetted in marble, with panels above in geometric patterns derived from ancient Roman prototypes. Over the single entrance doorway is a mosaic panel of the flag of Argentina.
The interior is described as being in a Romanesque-Byzantine style, although perhaps the latter term is not much in evidence.
The nave has side aisles, separated by arcades supported by white and grey ribbed marble Ionic columns, seven on each side. The first column on each side also supports an arcade on which is the organ gallery, and this has a further two columns between which you enter. Over the organ you can see the shield of the Mercedarian order in a tondo on the counterfaçade, flanked by a pair of peacocks and then two angels in tondi.
Above the arcades are the galleries, which have their own arcades on short Composite columns in the same marble as the columns below. These galleries have solid balustrades. Above the gallery arcades, are rows of round-headed windows, one above each arch, with pierced marble transennae. The fenestration of these windows, and in those elsewhere, is actually not glass but alabaster cut very thin to let in the light.
The side walls are simply painted in yellow ochre, with red edging to the archivolts.
The roof is an open wooden truss. The side aisle ceilings are flat, and painted in geometric designs.
The floor is of polychrome marble laid in geometric patterns. In the centre is the coat-of-arms of Argentina. A memorial slab to Msr. Gallardo, the founder of the church, is also set in the floor. It was presented by the Argentinian cardinals and bishops in 1964, when they were convened in Rome for the Second Vatican Council.
In the conch of the apse is a mosaic of Our Lady of Sorrows, designed by Conti and executed by Marco Tullio Monticelli. Our Lady is shown with the corpse of Christ, accompanied by angels. One of the angels to the right is holding the Column of Flagellation.
The triumphal arch of the apse has six-winged seraphs' heads along its archivolt, and on the spandrels are two angels holding the shields of Argentina (left) and the Mercedarians (right). Above is Christ with the four Evangelists.
The apse wall is revetted in marble slabs, and at the top has a round-headed window on each side. These have interestingly different patterns of transennae
The sanctuary is separated from the nave by an altar screen of white marble with intricately carved and pierced transennae. Look for the little birds. These transennae are surrounded by mosaic frames in the Cosmatesque style. Bronze gates in the screen again have the coat-of-arms of Argentina and of the Order of Mercedarians.
The altar screen is located sowhat in front of the apse, into the last bay of the nave, and in the spaces at either end are a pulpit on the left and a lectern on the right. These also have Cosmatesque decorations, that on the pulpit being impressive. The lectern features a pair of carved crouching lions. These, the gates and the altar tabernacle are by Duilio Cambellotti.
The high altar is decorated with onyx, and is sheltered by a baldacchino in mediaeval style, supported by four highly polished granite columns in the Corinthian order. These support rows of little twisted columns which then support a triangular pediment on each side. The granite is from Tandil in Argentina.
Chapel of the Sacred Heart
The side chapels flanking the sanctuary are simply decorated, with marble revetting.
The left hand one, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, has an unusual icon showing the head and upper torso of the crucified Christ. This was executed in 1960, and is inspired by the Christ of Velázquez. The altar is on a short twisted Ionic column.
Chapel of Our Lady of Luján
The right hand chapel has a small statue of Our Lady of Luján, who is the principal patron of Argentina.
Chapel of Our Lady of Ransom
The side chapel off the right hand side aisle is dedicated to Our Lady of Ramsom, a special devotion of the Mercedarian order. It is more substantial than the other two chapels, and has a pair of columns.
The attractive mosaic shows the Madonna and Child standing on the moon, with a yellow nimbus on a blue background. She is holding the White Scapular of the Mercedarians. The work was executed by the Scuola Italiana del Mosaico at Montepulciano in the 1970's.
The church is open (tourist website 060608, June 2011):
07:00 to 20:00. A lunchtime closure may happen.
The most useful bus that stops here is the 63, which runs from Piazza Venezia.
According to the church's website (June 2018), the basic timetable for the celebration of Mass is:
Weekdays 7:30, 12:30, 19:00.
Saturdays 7:30, 18:30.
Sundays 9:30, 10:30, 12:30, 18:30.
In summer and on special occasions, additional Masses may be celebrated and the above times may change.
Apparently, Mass is also celebrated in Spanish on the first Sunday in the month at 19:30 -but the church website does not seem to advertise this.
The feast of Our Lady of Sorrows used to be celebrated both on 15 September and on 15 February. This was owing to different calendars placing the feast on different days. The correct date is the former one.
Our Lady of Luján is celebrated on 8 May.