Suore Francescane Missionarie del Sacro Cuore is a mid 20th century convent, school and public chapel at Via Tor de' Schiavi 156 in the Prenestino-Centocelle quarter.
A photo on Wikimedia Commons is here.
The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart were founded in 1861 at Gemona del Friuli near Udine. The foundress, Mother Joseph-of-Jesus Léroux, was a widowed French nobleman who had emigrated to Italy specifically to use her fortune in such a venture.
The congregation affiliated to the Franciscans in 1892, and received definitive approval from the Holy See in 1905 after it had entered into missionary activity worldwide.
It built a Generalate (headquarters) for itself in Centocelle in 1949, including a chapel so big that it's obvious the intention was for it to be a public church. However, this did not happen as the chapel seems not to have a formal dedication (according to the Diocese).
Then, in 1963 the sisters built a huge new Generalate in Tomba di Nerone -see Cappella Istituto Asisium. This was a mistake, as numbers in the congregation began to decline only five years later (along with those in all Catholic active sisterhoods).
The congregation now runs this convent as the provincial headquarters for Italy, and has a school attached called the Istituto Maria Immacolata. The chapel has become a public Mass centre for the parish of San Felice da Cantalice a Centocelle, but its future must be in doubt.
Layout and fabric Edit
This chapel is indistinguishable from a parish church, and has a high civic profile. It also has an address separate from that of the school -156 instead of 150. The huge four-storey convent and school block is completely detached from it, linked only by a covered corridor.
The plan is traditionally basilical. There is a central nave with side aisles, of four and a half bays with the half-bay at the back. The sanctuary occupies a separate transverse range attached to the back, which has its left side wall at the far outer corner of the left hand aisle. However, it only runs as far as just to the right of the central nave roofline where it meets a tall tower campanile.
The chapel stands over a ground-level crypt.
The fabric consists of a reinforced concrete frame, with red brick infill. The side aisles are very tall, as they contain galleries, and the bays are divided by white concrete piers. These support the side aisle roof-beams, as well as median beams which divide each bay wall into a square below and a horizontal rectangle above. These beams support the galleries within. A third set of beams support the floor of the aisle, and below the aisle floor is a void open to the outside through the piers. The lower edges of these floor beams each have a slight incut angle, giving the impression of an arcade.
The side aisle bays each have a set of window strips abutting the piers, four in all springing from the central beam. These do not quite reach the roofline and floor beams. The back half-bay has only two windows in each side wall. A horizontal window strip is inserted in between the roofline beams and the actual roof for both central nave and aisles.
The central nave walls appear low, because of the height of the aisles. It is blank, with the central nave arcade beams visible. The central nave roof is gabled and tiled, with projecting eaves, but the aisle and sanctuary roofs are single-pitched.
The tower campanile seems to be in brick. It is blank-walled, except for small openings to light the staircase, and is attached to the back wall of the nave as far as the floor of the bell-chamber. The latter has a large rectangular opening on each side, reducing the fabric to four brick corner piers topped by concrete blocks. There is a tiled cap with a gable on each side on top of these blocks, and these bear an ornate cross finial.
The far wall of the nave above the sanctuary range has a huge window in the same style as that in the façade -see below.
Because of the crypt, the front entrance is elevated and has a patio in front of it. This is accessed by a pair of transverse staircases. The brick wall below these is embellished with rows of apertures in the form of a cross -unfortunately, a metal security fence is in front of these now and it rather spoils the effect.
A pair of massive concrete piers frame the central nave frontage, while the corner piers of the aisles are much thinner. An open porch with a single-pitched roof occupies the entire width of the façade, and on the upper roofline of this is a massive beam running across the central nave frontage. This has a projecting sill, with four corbels. Above the middle two corbels a pair of thin piers run up to the gable, and the space in between these is entirely occupied by a huge window. This is divided into a pentagonal form and two triangles by a pair of diagonal beams meeting at the gable tip and forming an inverted V. This window is filled with stained glass in a geometric design involving a Maltese cross.
The central nave and side aisle roofline beams, which protrude slightly, are taken across the façade to meet the window piers.
The portico has four concrete piers supporting the lower roofline beam. The latter has a slightly angled gable in between the two middle piers, and a triangular-topped concrete frame is inserted into this to serve as a ceremonial portal. Inside, the central nave has three doors but the side aisles have none.
An ornate cross finial, matching that on the campanile, is on the façade's gable.
The interior is in white, with the concrete frame piers and beams in light grey. The side aisles and counterfaçade have galleries. The counterfaçade gallery has a grey support beam with a white solid balustrade above, while the side aisle galleries have white beams with metal railing balustrades.
Mass is celebrated publicly:
Weekdays 7:00; Sundays 10:30 (July and August 9:00 or 9:30).