Santa Maria della Pietà a Monte Mario is an early 20th century hospital chapel at Piazza Santa Maria della Pietà in the Primavalle quarter.

The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of Our Lady of Piety.

History Edit

The free-standing chapel is part of an enormous former psychiatric hospital complex (manicomio), comprising thirty-four separate edifices laid out in an extensive parkland setting. This is just to the west of the Monte Mario train station.

As an institution, this manicomio had a very long history. Its remote antecedents lay in the foundation of a pious confraternity in 1548, dedicated to Santa Maria della Pietà and committed to the care of mentally ill people. This fraternity set up a hospital and chapel at what is now the church of Santi Bartolomeo ed Alessandro dei Bergamaschi.

In 1725, the papal government sponsored a purpose-built hospital in Trastevere to replace the collection of converted houses used by the confraternity, and this had its own chapel -Santa Maria Maddalena nello Spedale de' Pazzi.

The hospital and chapel were demolished at the end of the 19th century in order to embank the Tiber. After some delay, the replacement hospital was begun early in 1907 under the architectural supervision of Eugenio Chiesa and Edgardo Negri. The chapel was in the first stage of the scheme, was begun in 1909 and completed in 1914.

There seems some doubt as to whether the chapel was ever formally consecrated as a building rather than having a consecrated altar. It functioned as a mortuary as well as a place of worship.

The manicomio stopped accepting new patients in 1979, and all original medical facilities on site were finally closed down by 1999. Since then, the edifices have been used as local government offices and venues for cultural activities, although the proposal that some of them could be used for university student accommodation has met certain difficulties.

New medical facilities have been opened since, including a veterinary hospital

The chapel is not now listed by the Diocese as a place of worship although there seems not to have been any formal deconsecration.

Appearance Edit

The assemblage of edifices here has a vaguely symmetrical layout and the attractive little chapel building is on the major axis behind the original main administrative block of the hospital. The style is vaguely neo-Classical.

The plan is rectangular, in two parts. The nave has a square plan, and amounts to a vertical flat-roofed cuboid which is almost cubical. The front and side faces of the cuboid each have a very shallow cross-arm which is narrower than the side and lower than the height of the nave, having a gabled roof of its own. The front one of these arms contains the main entrance. The rest of the overall rectangle in the plan is occupied by the sanctuary and sacristies, the former having a semi-circular plan and enclosed by the latter. The flat roof is lower.

The fabric seems to be in brick, although the exterior is rendered in a pale orange colour broken by a white plain string-course that runs round the entire nave exterior about halfway up at the level of the sanctuary roof. The rendering of the cross-arms is grooved to give the impression of rusticated ashlar stone blocks.

The nave rooflines, including those of the cross-arm gables, are occupied by entablatures with strongly projecting cornices. For the cross-arms, these crown triangular pediments with very deep tympani. The sanctuary block has a parapet, however.

The nave has a hemispherical dome sitting on the flat roof. This has an octagonal lantern with a round-headed opening in each face which has a white archivolt. There is a incurved conical cap with a ball finial. The sanctuary roof has a quarter-sphere dome attached to the upper back wall of the nave, and this is the exterior of the sanctuary apse conch.

Each of the cross arms has a semi-circular lunette window sitting on the strong course. The far wall of the sanctuary has two round-headed windows flanking a matching round-headed back entrance which is approached by a flight of steps with parallel sides.

The main entrance has a simply molded doorcase of the same width as the lunette window above, and having a floating cornice which supplants the string course. On the keystone of the lunette is a bracket holding a bust of Our Lady. There is also a flight of steps here, but these are three-sided.

The most unusual feature of the design is the tower campanile, which is certainly not neo-Classical. It rises out of the sanctuary roof to the left of the apse conch, and has two storeys attached to the back of the nave wall. The second has a round-headed opening on each exposed face, but the lower storey only has such an opening on its left hand face. The far face here has a doorway leading onto the flat sanctuary roof. The top of the second storey has the nave cornice taken around it. Above this is a dumpy spire above four circular clock-face apertures with wide frames.

External links Edit

Italian Wikipedia page

Info.roma web-page

Archidiap web-page

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