Santo Stefano d'Ungheria is a later 20th century confraternity chapel, formerly also conventual, at Via del Casaletto 481 in the Gianicolense suburban district.
In response to the failed Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and the realisation among Magyar exiles that their country was definitively under Soviet control, expatriate groups began to set up long-term organisation structures. One of these was an association under Italian law called the Fondazione di Culto e Religione Santo Stefano d'Ungheria. This was set up to provide a centre for Hungarian pilgrims and expatriates at Rome. Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio was traditionally regarded as the Hungarian national church, but has never provided social facilities for them.
The project for a pilgrimage centre was begun in the same year, and completed in 1966. The chapel was consecrated in 1967. The institution is known as the Szent István Ház in Hungarian, the Casa di Santo Stefano in Italian and "St Stephen's House" in English.
The complex was put in the charge of the Kalocsai Iskolanővérek, the "School SIsters of Kalocsa" or Suore Insegnanti di Kalocsa. This Augustinian teaching sisterhood was founded at Kalocsa in Hungary in 1860, but traced its charism back to St Peter Fourier.
Unfortunately, the decline in religious vocations has hit this congregation harder than most and its website in 2019 advertised that there were only fifteen sisters left in Hungary, and about one hundred in China. In response, a policy of withdrawal from commitments in other countries was carried out in the Nineties, and this included pulling out of the institute at Rome.
There have been problems with the secular administration of the Casa per ferie (holiday hotel) since, with negative reviews being posted online. It should be made clear that this place is run by Hungarians for (primarily) Hungarians, but management apparently became poor overall and the hotel was not good value for money. There was a renovation in 2018, however, and facilities are reported as being much better. It remains a worry that the website is "disabled".
Layout and fabric Edit
Despite the postal address, the only street view of the chapel façade is from the Via Vincenzo Ussani.
The Casa is a compact three-storey edifice in red brick around a reinforced concrete frame. The chapel occupies a wing that projects forward on the left, taking up the first two storeys. This wing has a fourth attic storey, invisible from the ground, and stands on a crypt mostly below ground level.
The chapel has a rectangular plan of four bays, the entrance bay being shallower. There is also a sanctuary apse narrower than the nave, but this does not feature externally.
The main concrete frame remains visible. The bays are separated by square piers flush with the brick wall infill (except for the entrance bay again), and stand on a set of exposed horizontal beams supporting the floor over the crypt. These beams are just above ground level, leaving room for low crypt windows. A second similar set of massive beams support the chapel roof which is the floor of the storey above. The piers and beams all meld without any differentiation. A narrow concrete string course connects the piers just below the upper set of support beams.
There are a pair of piers at the façade corners. The next pair have a single narrow window strip running down the length of the far side, with a matching vertical rectangular window above it on top of the string course. Two such fenestrations flank the two further beams in each side wall. Thee main block of the Casa abuts the chapel beyond the third bay on the right, but on the left there is a single vertical strip fenestration at the termination of the string course at the level of the sanctuary apse.
The brick infill is recessed within the beams and string course at the sides of the entrance bay.
Because of the crypt, the single entrance is accessed via a pair of transverse staircases reaching a small patio in front of the door.
The upper storey projects strongly, supported by the front one of the set of upper support beams. There is a further pair of piers flanking a trapezoidal bastion containing the door, and which only reaches up as far as the string course and has a flat top. Over the door, which occupies most of the width of the front face of the bastion, is a large stained glass window which depicts the patron saint St Stephen in a semi-abstract style, with the quarries set in fibreglass. This reaches from the door lintel to the top of the bastion.
The interior is mostly in white. An odd feature is that the interior nave side walls below the string course are brought forward from the exterior walls, and the pairs of window strips outside light single window strips on the inside. These contain colourful stained glass in semi-abstract patterns making use of Christian symbols. The little rectangular windows above the string course contain similar glass.
There are two side altars, facing each other and provided with altarpiece paintings by the same artist, employing an etiolated style with some abstract elements. The right hand one shows the Madonna and Child, with her standing in a garden with tulips. The left hand one shows King St Stephen with the bishop St Gerard Sagredo, the evangelisers of the Magyars.
The little rectangular apse, which has a curved top, is surrounded with what looks like blue brickwork. It is filled by a large painting by the same artist already met with. It depicts Magyar saints attending at the Crucifixion. SS Stephen and Gerard are to the left, behind St Emeric the son of the former, who predeceased him. To the right are King St Ladislas, St Elizabeth of Hungary (with roses) and St Kinga.
The sanctuary floor is in black marble, raised on two steps. The altar, lectern, tabernacle throne (to the right, under the gilded metal tabernacle on the throne) and Easter candlestick are a matching set, in white and grey vertical rectangular marble tiles roughly carved, and in slightly different vertical planes.