Santa Maria del Carmine ai Prati is an earlier 20th century Fascist-era convent church at Via Sforza Pallavicini 10 in the rione Prati.
This edifice has the civic presence of a church. However, the writer cannot find positive evidence that it ever functioned as one. It certainly does not now, as the Diocese does not list it as a centre of public cultic activity and so it is purely a private chapel.
The Calced Carmelites (as distinct from Discalced ones) have been in the locality for a long time. They were first installed in the old church of Santa Maria in Traspontina in 1484 by Pope Innocent VIII, and have been there ever since (the church was subsequently relocated, however).
In 1899, the Order decided to found a house of studies in the new suburb of Prati, for the education of Carmelites in formation.
The first stage of the project was completed in 1901, resulting in a large three-storey edifice in a vaguely neo-Renaissance style on the corner of Via Sforza Pallavicini and Via Alberico II with the major frontage on the latter street. It is a reminder of how common vocations to the religious life in the Roman Catholic Church used to be, that the edifice was seen as inadequate on completion. So, in 1922 it was decided to add a fourth storey and an external chapel. The latter was begun in 1925, and completed three years later. The architect is given as Edmond Saint Just.
The chapel seems to have been intended as a fully functioning church, and certainly has the civic presence of one.
In common with most other congregations of religious, the Carmelites suffered a fall-off in the number of vocations in the latter 20th century. In response, in 1986 the college was closed and the premises given over to a new educational institution, the Centro Internazionale Sant'Alberto. This was intended for all Carmelites, not just those in formation, and also for other religious to keep up the numbers. However, there proved not to be enough of the latter to make the whole complex viable.
So, in 2000 the eastern part of the complex was sequestered as a new pilgrimage hotel, the Domus Carmelitana with an address at Via Alberico II 44. The Centro continues in occupation of the western range, with the chapel.
Layout and fabric Edit
The main range of the college runs along the Via Alberico II, and turns before the Via Pietro Della Valle to form an L. The area between the short wing and the latter street used to be a garden, but is now mostly under tarmac. The chapel is at the end of a shorter, third wing fronting onto the Via Sforza Pallavicini.
The chapel plan is very odd, because it is trapezoidal with the side walls widening towards the sanctuary. This is because the Via Alberico II and the Via Crescenzio to the north are themselves at an angle, and the chapel is squeezed into a gap between the college aligned along the former street and the premises running along the latter. Also, the frontage is at an angle to the major axis -the right hand side wall is shorter than the left.
There is a single nave, with a single-bay sanctuary which is slightly narrower. This has a very shallow segmental apse.
The fabric seems to be in brick. The roof is pitched and tiled. In front of the sanctuary is a flat-roofed lantern, which looks as if it was intended to have a dome. It is on the plan of a laterally stretched octagon, with longer cardinal sides. Each of the cardinal sides has a double round-headed window, and each of the diagonal sides a single one.
The simple but dignified single-storey façade is in travertine limestone. It features two pairs of gigantic Tuscan Doric pilasters on high plinths, and supporting a crowning entablature and pediment. Oddly, the outer two pilasters are doubletted along their outer corners and support posts in the entablature above, but the inner two do not.
The frieze of the entablature bears the epigraph Maria decor Carmeli ("Mary beauty of Carmel"), and the tympanum of the pediment contains an ornate relief of the coat-of-arms of the Carmelites supported by angels. Large torch finials stand over the corners of the pediment.
The single entrance has a slightly oversized triangular pediment unsupported by pilasters or columns, and above this is a large round window in a molded frame.
The interior is in a lush Baroque style, with generous use of what looks like polychrome marbles. This observation applies especially to the original altar bearing the tabernacle, which the Carmelites have had the sense to leave alone when they erected a new altar "pro populo" in front of it. The old altar has a very ornate inlaid frontal, and looks to be an original Baroque piece.
Very unusually, the altarpiece is a stained glass window instead of a painting or sculpture. It depicts Our Lady Granting the Scapular to Simon Stock.