Santa Maria Mater Dei is a later 20th century parish church at Via della Camilluccia 120, in the Della Vittoria quarter north of Monte Mario.
The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of "Mother of God" (Mater dei in Latin).
The pastoral progenitor of the parish is the little early 19th century chapel of Madonna del Buon Consiglio a Via della Camilluccia, surviving just down the street although now deconsecrated.
The Sons of Divine Providence (the Orionini) began the foundation of a huge sports and social complex, the Centro Don Orione, after the Second World War on an extensive site on the northern slope of Monte Mario. At that time the only group of buildings here consisted of a health resort built by the noted architect Enrico Del Debbio, around a villa which was to become the centre of the parish at number 140. This resort was a so-called colonia elioterapica, which seems to have been a solar-radiation therapy centre for tubercular patients (not a naturist colony). The villa's design reflects the interest in sun-bathing.
Salus Populi Romani Edit
The Orionini were responsible firstly for an enormous gilded copper statue of Santa Maria Salus Populi Romani, which is named after a famous icon of her at Santa Maria Maggiore. It is nicknamed La Madonnina, which is a rather ironic diminutive.
This statue is nine metres, high, on a tall tower plinth twenty metres high, and is situated in the parkland behind the complex. The sculptor was Arrigo Minerbi, and the statue was inaugurated in 1953. Attached to it is a little devotional chapel.
Apparently the copper for the statue came from donated kitchen pots and pans, the generosity of donors being encouraged by the novel availability of more user-friendly aluminium ones. The rationale of the project was an act of thanksgiving by the city for passing through the Second World War relatively free from damage -in fact, the Fascists were planning much more in the way of wholesale demolition of historic buildings had war not broken out and prevented them. Rome is perhaps unique among major European cities in having the war preventing destruction instead of causing it.
In 2009 the statue was blown over in a gale, but it was quickly restored and blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in the following year.
The Orionini went on to found a very impressive set of different institutions at their Centro -see the website here. The core of the complex has two foci, consisting of a pair of enormous three-storey blocks (they have two-storey crypts and attic floors as well) which enclose a courtyard each. These had been built by 1969, when the Centro acquired the status of a legal entity.
The parish was set up in 1978, and is entirely administered by the Orionini. The parish church and headquarters have been a rather low-key element of the Centro since then, and the first location was not really suitable. The old heliotherapy complex at number 140 to the north was taken over, with the parish offices in the original villa and the "church" being a little flat-roofed construction at the south end of a single-storey ancillary wing at the back of the villa.
New church Edit
The parish was visited by Pope St John Paul II in 2001 and, perhaps not coincidentally, a project for a new parish church was implemented in the following year. The chapel of the former orphanage in the Centro was gutted and converted, the work being overseen by the architect Giovanni Battista Pagliarulo, and the new parish church was consecrated in 2003.
Layout and fabric Edit
The new church has no separate structural identity. However, the original orphanage chapel has left its mark in the form of pairs of single-light Gothic windows in the left side and far end walls.
Inside, a very novel layout has involved inserting a circular sanctuary into a rectangular space.
In the bottom right hand corner, next to the entrance, is walled-off area containing the confessionals. Beyond this is the nave, which to the right has four concrete columns creating, in effect, two side aisles. To the left of the entrance is a two-bay recess with a cross-vault supported by a pair of arcade columns, and this arcade and vault is continued up the left hand side of the nave. The vault and arcade archivolts have no ribs or moldings, and are in white. The Doric columns are thin, in pink marble and (unusually) have dark grey capitals supporting inverted cone-shaped imposts from which the vaulting springs.
As mentioned, the sanctuary area is circular and this is emphasised by a huge torus-shaped floating ceiling panel with ambient light fittings giving illumination from its edges and centre, where there is a focal bulge. The right hand nave wall has large rectangular windows, and after the last of these is curved round the back of the sanctuary space to create a frontage for the sacristy as well as a backing for the free-standing altar.
The arcade to the left is also curved round, further back than the sacristy wall, and the area between this curve and the far left hand corner is filled with a cross-vaulted colonnade. This is the location of the Blessed Sacrament chapel. The ample seating for the liturgical ministers and the Orionini community is between the start of this colonnade and the sanctuary on the left hand side.
The altar has a Baroque frontal but, alarmingly, this is attached to a simple wooden table. It (the frontal) came from the old church. It is panelled with onyx, with a central black marble roundel bearing the gilded monogram of Ave Maria as well as the Greek letters MP ΘY which stand for "Mother of God".
On the wall behind the altar is the venerated icon of Our Lady, Mother of God which was painted for the old church by Antonio Aloisi in 1957. It is in a polychrome marble Baroque frame, with Corinthian pilaster capitals in limestone -obviously scavenged from elsewhere.
A set of stained glass roundels by Paolo Carpetti features St Luigi Orione, the founder of the Orionini with events from his life, and also Pope St John Paul II.
The baptistery has an impressive layout, involving a glass floor over a radial sector pattern focusing on the font which is a hemispherical bowl carved from travertine stone on a stainless steel stand. Here also is a stained glass window entitled The Mystery of Light by Amedeo Mangino.
Santa Maria Salus Populi Romani Edit
The colossal gilded statue of Our Lady stands on a tower plinth revetted in white slabs. It is at the far end of a very long covered corridor, the near end of which is opposite the main entrance of the Centro.
The corridor ends in a little cloister with a formal garden, and has a flat-roofed single storey range attached which is now advertised as Centro di spiritualità "La Madonnina". It has a small chapel as well as function and reception rooms.
According to a notice displayed in the church (2019), Mass is celebrated;
Weekdays 9:00, 18:00 (19:00 on Saturdays);
Sundays and Solemnities 9:00, 10:30, 12:15, 19:00.