Santa Maria Consolatrice al Tiburtino is a mid 20th century parish and titular church with a postal address at Via Casal Bertonne 80, which in the suburb of Casal Bertone. This is a rather isolated part of the Tiburtino quarter, and is tucked away between railways and the Strada dei Parchi just east of the Campo Verano. The main entrance of the church is on the Piazza Santa Maria Consolatrice.
The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of Our Lady the Consoler (Consolatrix).
The area was open fields until the 1920's, and then became a working-class suburb especially for railway workers. It was part of the parish of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura, but its isolation meant a circuitous journey to get to the basilica. Hence, the Capuchin friars there set up a dependent chapel called Madonna Consolata in 1935, and provided it with a copy of the representation of Our Lady venerated at the basilical shrine of La Consolata at Turin.
They then initiated a project to build a proper parish church in 1942, so this was under construction during the Second World War. However, the same bombing raid that seriously damaged San Lorenzo also caused severe destruction and loss of life at Casal Bertone, and damage to the new church put back its opening to 1945. The architect was Tullio Rossi.
The parish was also erected in 1945, and was administered by diocesan clergy from the start.
A notable apse mosaic was provided in 1964.
The church was made titular in 1969. Pope Benedict XVI was cardinal priest here from 1977 to 1993 before being elected pope.
Layout and fabric Edit
This is a long church, on a rectangular basilical plan with an integral three-sided apse. There is a central nave with aisles, and the elevation of the latter is low compared with the former. The right hand aisle has two little segmental external chapels.
The apse is windowless, but there is a row of seven vertically rectangular windows above the aisle on each side. You can easily examine these in the left hand side of the church, facing the Via Giuseppe Govone. There, the edifice has a completely blank aisle wall, except for a side entrance within a shallowly recessed round-headed niche with a stepped edge. The seven windows of the central nave walls are each set within the lower portion of a large rectangular recessed panel, again with a stepped edge and with a square raised panel above the window.
The exterior walls are rendered in a light grey.
The roof on the nave and apse is pitched and tiled, but the aisle roofs are flat.
There is no proper campanile, but instead an open square frame in brick which is perched on top of the priest's house to the right of the sanctuary. It contains two bells, one above the other.
The façade is raised above the piazza, and is accessed via a flight of eleven stairs which lead to a patio. It has two storeys, and has no relief decoration of any kind.
The first storey has a row of five large and deep round-headed recesses, with the main entrance in the middle one and the aisle entrances in the two outer ones. These entrances have molded stone doorcases, the central one being larger. The other two recesses are blind.
There is a horizontal projecting cornice over the whole width of this storey of the façade, including the aisle rooflines. Below it is a frieze in off-white, with a dedicatory inscription: Deo Uni et Trino, in hon[ore] B[eatae] Mariae V[irginis] de consolatione, a[nno] D[omini] MCMXLIV ("To God, one and triple, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary of consolation, AD 1944"). The Latin has been Italianized -de consonatione, not consolationis as expected.
The overall colour scheme is basically dark grey, but the pseudo-piers between the arches have their upper parts in off-white. Their lower parts and a dado at entrance level are in mid-grey.
The second storey has three arches of the same style, and nothing else. It is entirely in mid-grey.
In the tympanum over the main entrance is a mosaic of Christ the Good Shepherd, executed by the Franciscan Capuchin friar Ugolino da Belluno in 1975. It is framed by a decorative strip involving images of doves, and this continues down either side of the doorcase.
Layout and fabric Edit
The nave has seven bays, immediately followed by the sanctuary apse. There is no transept. A little chapel is at the end of each aisle, and two chapels in the form of segmental apses open off the right hand aisle.
The aisles have no arcades, but are trabeated with concrete columns sheathed in red marble. These have circular molded imposts but no capitals, and merely support the central nave walls without entablatures. Above them, the nave walls have rectangular windows which contain simple stained glass with a cross motif. The walls are in white. The unpainted wooden ceiling is flat, with longitudinal rafters and transverse beams.
The church is especially notable for its modern mosaic of Our Lady being venerated by various saints. It occupies the entire wall and conch of the apse, and dominates the interior. The artist was Sergio Selva, who finished it in 1964.
Our Lady is in the centre, being venerated by four angels. Below here are SS Maria Goretti and Dominic Savio. Eight other saints are to the sides. To the left, top to bottom: SS Peter the Apostle, Paul the Apostle, Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena; to the right, SS John the Baptist, Lawrence, Francesca Romana, Philip Neri . To the bottom left is a scene of the Annunciation, and to the right the Deposition From the Cross.
Near the edges of the apse mosaic are two large apertures with iron grilles. Above these are shown the holy cities of Nazareth and Bethlehem, and below them are depicted this church and the basilica of St Peter's. The Dove of the Holy Spirit in glory is in the top of the conch.
Behind the altar, below the mosaic in the apse, is the tabernacle in the form of a stylized four-petalled flower. This is flanked by a mosaic relief depicting a scrolling vine with many different birds, which is on a curved free-standing screen fitted into the curve of the apse. The work also shows the baskets from The Multiplication of the Loaves and the water-jars from The Marriage of Cana -obvious Eucharistic symbols. The arrangement was put in place in 1980, and the artist was Ugolino da Belluno again.
In a place of honour above the tabernacle is a copy of the icon of Our Lady venerated at the basilical shrine of La Consolata at Turin. This was in the original chapel on the site before the Second World War.
The striking free-standing altar was erected in 1970. It has a black frontal, into which is incised the monogram of Christ IHS in blocky, irregular letters in white -very much of the time. The ambo or lectern to the left is also of note, being a rough-cut semi-cylinder in grey stone on a plinth which is formed from a stack of three stone discs slipped forward.
The triumphal arch mosaic is a separate work from that in the apse. Strictly speaking it is not a full mosaic, as the artist laid layers of coloured cement on top of each other and scratched into them (sgraffito). On the arch keystone is the Lamb of God, and at the springers are the symbols of the Evangelist. The intrados bears the monogram of Our Lady and the Chi-rho. At the bottoms of the piers are the heraldic devices of Popes Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI when he was still cardinal here.
Side chapels Edit
The first apsidal chapel in the right hand aisle is the baptistery. In 1995, Ugolino da Belluno created a mosaic of The Baptism of Christ in the apse behind the font. This is a very accomplished piece, and is the best of his three works in this church. The font itself is in the form of a rough stone outcrop, rather small.
The other apsidal chapel off this aisle is dedicated to St Rita. It has an altar in a simplified neo-Baroque style using two coloured stone, one greyish-green and the other cream and red. The altarpiece of the saint looks 19th century, and was a donation from a family of the parish.
The chapel at the far end of the aisle is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with a good white marble statue by Angelo Fattinnanzi.
The chapel at the end of the left hand aisle is dedicated to St Joseph.
The statue of Our Lady of Sorrows in the left hand aisle is a traditionally figurative representation by Rodolf Moroder di Ortosei, of 1954. It shows her with a sword in her chest, but with a good deal more dignity than this genre usually manages -kitsch redeemed.
In this aisle also is a little wooden shrine with a painted wooden statue of St Anthony of Padua.
The church is open (unofficial source):
8:15 to 12:30, 17:00 to 19:00.
The architecture is poor and hardly worth getting off the bus for, but the church is worth visiting for its modern mosaic work.
Mass is celebrated (parish website, May 2019):
Weekdays 8:30, 18:00 (19:00 in summer);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 17:00 (not summer), 19:00.