Santa Maria Mater Ecclesiae a Torrino is a a pair of later 20th century parish churches serving the suburb of Torrino, north-east of the junction of the Via del Mare with the Grande Raccordo Anulare (Circonvallazione Meridionale).
The newer church is at Via Sciangai 10 in the south-west of the suburb, and the older one is at Viale Romualdo Chiesa 47 to the north-east -actually in the zone of Tor di Valle, and sometimes unofficially referred to as Santa Maria Mater Ecclesiae a Tor di Valle to distinguish it.
They are dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of "Mother of the Church" (Mater ecclesiae in Latin).
The parish was set up in 1966 in response to the development of a planned suburban neighbourhood for employees of the State. It was provided with a prefabricated temporary church near the Tor di Valle train station.
The worshipping community then had to wait 22 years for a permanent building. Perhaps unfortunately in hindsight, it was decided to build it some distance away. The suburb was being extended to the south by a private consortium (Torrino Sud), and a site for the new parish complex was reserved in the plans. This was designed by Giorgio Pacini, and completed in 1988.
The usual procedure would then have been to deconsecrate and dismantle the temporary structure. However, some parishioners were not at all happy as to how far away the new church was from the old one. Hence both buildings are still being used and the latter, the Piccola Chiesa, is in effect a second parish church rather than a dependent chapel.
This situation, unique among Roman parishes, has now persisted for thirty years -and the two churches have an equal number of Masses.
Layout and fabric Edit
The main church is part of a sports and social complex, situated away from the street. Attached to the near right hand side of the church is an ancillary block which includes a theatre as well as parish offices.
The fabric is in reinforced concrete, and begins with a box frame on a longitudinal rectangular plan. Four longitudinally rectangular piers stand at the corners, and these are supplemented by two more piers in between at both ends. Four massive longitudinal slab beams connect the piers, and two transverse slab-beams complete the rectangle at either end.
The interesting thing about the design is, that the actual edifice with its (mostly) flat roof occupies the space below the lower edges of these beams. The church proper occupies the back two-thirds of the box, and has a flat roof in three longitudinal strips between the longitudinal beams. In front of this roof is an elevated walkway leading from a set of stairs on the left hand side, right across the front of the church and into the ancillary block to the right. This walkway has a semi-cylindrical roof of its own. In front of it is the roof of a gallery over an entrance loggia, which slopes down slightly from back to front.
The central strip of the church's roof has four square skylights over the altar, themselves forming a square.
Where the roof of the walkway emerges on the right side of the ancillary block, it continues as a deep canopy supported by steel struts.
The longitudinal beams each have a row of nine large circular cut-out holes above the church proper, except for the right hand beam which has only seven because of the abutting ancillary block. In contrast, the two end beams each have twenty-four vertical rows of four smaller such cut-out circles -ninety six in total.
The side and back walls are in white concrete. There is a little semi-cylindrical chapel attached to the bottom left hand side, beyond which are a pair of small rectangular appendages for confessions. These are free-standing, and are surrounded by window strips. On the far right hand side is the rectangular ferial chapel, which has a lower roof.
The sanctuary has a segmental apse, tucked in under the far box beam. Attached to its right hand side is a sacristy.
The church is fronted by a garden area, which to the right has a monumental metal cross standing apart. This has four horizontal arms at right angles, and perhaps exists as a reminder that there is a church here -something not otherwise obvious. The main entrance path leads past mature trees, not to the church itself but to the main entrance of the ancillary complex. The front top slab beam of the church, with its circular piercings, continues without interruption across the top of this.
The loggia is a void beyond the four support piers, which have drainpipes inlaid into their fronts. Above, the gallery has two distinct frontages:
The right half consists of two white concrete walls on the line of the pilasters, the right hand one taking up the entire width between two piers and having twelve square windows in six vertical pairs. The left hand one takes up only half of the central width, and has six windows.
The left half of the gallery frontage is cantilevered out slightly, and has four circular windows. The left hand three are in a row between the pilasters, and the right hand one is on its in the central width.
The transverse rectangular interior space has its seating for the congregation laid on in a fan-shaped array, focusing on the altar.
The interior displays a very impressive set of modern mosaics in semi-figurative style. The Stations of the Cross is especially good, and are in two rows below the roofline on the left hand side wall. Otherwise, the walls are in white and the floor is in irregular stone paving of various shades. The ferial chapel on the right is separated by a clear glass screen, and is a simple space with a Byzantine style icon of the Madonna and Child behind the altar. The tabernacle in here is a smaller version of the one in the main church, without embellishment.
The ceiling is in concrete, coffered in squares with the four coffers over the altar occupied by box skylights. The lighting is otherwise mostly from a row of three large round windows below the roofline to the left of the apse.
The church's wooden statue of Our Lady was executed in 2005 by Ferdinando Perathoner.
The altar stands on a circular platform of two steps which fits into the apse. The latter is completely covered by a mosaic of The Deesis, featuring the crucified Christ, Our Lady and St John the Baptist together with a crowd of imploring people.
To the right of the sanctuary is the sacristy door, with two of its walls further to the right forming a right angle. This in-cut angle is occupied by the tabernacle, which is a gilded polyhedral box surrounded by mosaic in silver itself surrounded by representations of the Dove of the Holy Spirit. Above is a large mosaic of The Resurrection, showing the risen Christ greeting Pope St John Paul II.
The Piccola Chiesa is on a square plan, tucked tightly in between the street and an apartment block with the major axis parallel to the former. The walls are in rough-cut yellowish-grey tufo blocks. There is a rectangular apse. The tiled roof has a gable occupying each side, and below each gable the angle is entirely occupied by a window strip.
The entrance façade has a cuboidal lobby, formed of two side walls supporting an almost flat tiled roof. The frontage of this is entirely occupied by the entrance doors, glass above and wood below. The frontage of the church either side of the lobby has a cross motif in red brick inserted into the walling.
The interior is very straightforward, all in white including the ceiling panels.
It is only remarkable for containing a sculpture of Our Lady, Mother of the Church by Eustacio Errani, created when the parish was founded and not (in the event) moved to the new church. The rather challenging bronze relief is on the wall to the left of the sanctuary. To the right is a baptismal font, a reminder that the edifice has managed to keep its status as a parish church.
Main church Edit
Mass is celebrated (parish website, July 2018):
Weekdays 9:00, 19:00 (not July to September);
Sundays and Solemnities:
8:30, 10:00 (not July to September), 11:30, 19:00.
Piccola chiesa Edit
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:00 (not July to September), 18:00;
Sundays and Solemnities 8:00, 9:30 (10:00 July to September), 11:00 (not July to September), 18:00.