Sante Perpetua e Felicita is a later 20th century parish church at Via Mentore Maggini 51, in the suburb of Vigna Murata to the east of the Laurentina metro station on the Via Laurentina. This is in the Giuliano-Dalmata quarter.
The dedication is to SS Perpetua and Felicity.
The church was originally conventual, and was built for the Generalate (congregational headquarters) of the Suore, Serve di Maria di Pistioa. This active congregation, founded in 1861 at Treppio, is part of the Servite family of religious. Hence they have the nickname Mantellate, which has been given to Servite Tertiary nuns and sisters for centuries.
The Generalate was founded in 1961, and dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows (Mater Dolorosa) as is the Servite tradition. The church was designed by Pietro Ferri, and consecrated in June 1967.
However the sisters had a radical re-think immediately, and decided to pass their new church on to the diocese. As a result it was re-consecrated to SS Perpetua and Felicity only four months later, in October. The parish was set up two years afterwards, in 1969.
This odd behaviour would have been part of the turmoil affecting most congregations of consecrated religious after the Second Vatican Council. The Servite congregations of sisters allegedly suffered worse than most, and there are only five sisters of this particular congregation now resident at Rome (2018). They are focusing their attention on their school in the city -see Cappella dell'Istituto Santa Giuliana Falconieri.
The parish was strengthened by the addition in 1983 of most of the territory of the failed parish of Sant'Alberto alle Tre Fontane. See Cappella dei Comboniani.
The postal address is now shared by the church, the Generalate and the Villa Ardeatina. The last is a medical facility which has taken over most of the convent buildings. See its website here.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church stands parallel to the street, which continues up its right hand side. A row of trees obscures the view of it here.
The church is on a rectangular plan, and has a reinforced concrete frame with brick infill. The single nave has nine bays, which are distinguished in the side walls by massive doubled concrete piers flush with the yellow brick infill which forms most of the walling in between. The tops of each pair of piers are connected by a gabled pair of roofline beams, and horizontal beams also connect the piers at the tops of the brick infills. The space between each of these horizontal beams and the gable above is filled with a stained glass window, nine on each side.
The roof is in green copper. It has a gable at each end, over the entrance and altar walls, where it is extended to form a high floating canopy. The gables over the side bays define the bottoms of V-gullies, each of which runs up to join the roof ridge at a point. There are ten of these gullies on each side, not eight as you might expect, because four floating beams at the same angle as the side gables are supporting the end canopy extensions of the roof and allow for an extra four gullies.
The former convent is enormous! It consists of three huge four-storey blocks arranged, in an L to the left of the church with the third block forming the foot of the L creating a courtyard with the other two blocks on one side and the church on the other. The Villa Ardeantina has taken over most of it.
A tall two-storey walkway with sides in glass connects the convent and the church on the fourth side of this courtyard, abutting the seventh bay of the church's left hand side and replacing the infill brick wall there.
On the far side of the walkway, near the top right hand corner of the church, is a tall tower campanile in the form of two tapering white concrete slabs. These join at a rounded junction at the top, forming a thin inverted V.
The impressive façade has a large single entrance portal, almost square which is approached by a flight of six steps. The wall to either side is revetted in black marble, which continues on each side a little higher than the lintel of the entrance. The rest of the façade, up to the gable, is occupied by a huge modern mosaic of the Pietà which recalls the brief original dedication of the church.
The framing concrete side piers begin with parallel sides, but just below the top outer corners of the black marble panelling start to widen inwards. At their tops they join two wide floating concrete beams which jut out at an upward angle to support an extension of the roof. The underside of this canopy is formed of four triangular panels separated by thin concrete support beams, and these have abstract swirling designs in what looks like terracotta.
The interior is structurally a single nave, with the side wall beams prominent and dividing these walls into shallow alcoves. They are oddly shaped, with the inner faces sloping back to about halfway up and then sloping out again to the roof. They and the roof are in white, except that a red strip occupies the central part of the inner pier faces.
The counterfaçade and sides of the church have galleries, the floors of which are in concrete slab projecting beyond the piers. The frontages of these are in wooden lattices of squares. A walkway connects the far ends across the far wall, similarly fronted. This odd design feature is another reminder that this was intended as a convent church, in which the sisters would have occupied the galleries. The church organ now occupies the gallery over the entrance.
The walls are in a yellow ochre, except for the sanctuary below the walkway which is in white. The corners of the sanctuary bay are occupied by a pair of enclosed sacristies on a square plan.
The floor is in white marble, with a central strip in black marble leading to the sanctuary. This is raised on a single step, and is also paved in black.
The far wall is windowless, and is dominated by an enormous mosaic of The Crucifixion. This is in a T shape, and rises from the former altar which has been left in place (a free-standing altar has been erected in front of it). The crossbar of the T fills the gable.
The church is up a dead-end street, and is not easy to find. This street appears to stop at the gated driveway to the Villa Ardeatina, but actually jigs to the right and continues a little further. The entrance for the church is on the left hand side up there.
According to the parish website (July 2018), the church is open:
Weekdays 8:00 to 19:00;
Sundays and Solemnities 9:30 to 19:00.
According to the parish website (July 2018), Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:30 (not summer), 18:00 (19:00 summer);
Sundays and Solemnities 10:30, 12:00 (not summer), 18:00 (19:00 summer).
An additional Mass for sick people is celebrated in the house chapel of the Villa Ardeatina on Fridays at 16:15.
The Divine Office is celebrated with Lauds at 8:15 on weekdays, 10:00 on Sundays. Vespers is celebrated daily at 17:40 (18:40 summer), preceded by the Rosary at 17:15 (18:15 summer).
There is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Thursdays from 5:00 to 24:00; apparently you are asked to notify beforehand if you want to attend this outside normal church opening hours.