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Assunzione di Maria is a mid 20th century parish and convent church with a postal address at Viale Spartaco 11, south of the Via Tuscolana in the Tuscolano quarter. The church's entrance is at number 19. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here.
The history of the parish began in 1957, when it was decided to divide the parish of Santa Maria del Buon Consiglio a Porta Furba. The process was begun by establishing a curacy in that year, with a Mass centre at the convent chapel of Divino Amore delle Religiose dell'Assunzione. The dedication seems to have been chosen in honour of the congregation of sisters there (Religious of the Assumption).
The new permanent church is the focus of the layout of a suburban estate known as Tuscolano II. This was an enormous public housing project entered into by the city after the Second World War, the supervising and planning architects being Saverio Muratori and Mario de Renzi. An enormous apartment block, almost a hundred metres long, was completed in 1950 and is called Il Boomerang because it has an oblique angle in its plan. The rest of the estate is laid out behind this, to the south, and construction went on until 1959.
The new church was begun in 1961, to a design by Muratori (his only church in Rome). The hexagonal plan of this was meant to complement the angle in Il Boomerang, which faces it across a piazza, and hence the church was meant to be the central focus of the layout of the entire estate.
In response, the parish was set up in 1964.
The crypt was completed and made ready as a temporary parish church by 1970, but tragically in 1971 the decision was taken to terminate the project and to leave the main church unbuilt. This decision was sealed, in effect, by the death of the architect in 1973.
This decision was extremely unpopular among those with an interest in the modern architecture of the city, and hopes that the church might be completed have been kept alive since then. However, it is virtually certain that the Diocese will not allot any funds for the purpose -there are too many other suburban areas in need of new churches nowadays.
The parish was initially put into the care of diocesan clergy. However, in 1992 it was taken over by the Congregation of St John the Baptist Precursor which has established its Generalate (headquarters) and house of studies here. This is a local clerical congregation of male religious, founded in the city in 1958.
Il Boomerang is the shopping centre of the suburb, as the ground floor of this enormous apartment block is occupied by a row of shops. The centre of the block has an obtuse angle, and opposite this on the rather busy Viale Spartico is a gateway in a set of railings. Behind these railings is a drop of a few metres to a courtyard in which the church stands.
The railings are of good quality, designed to evoke the Crown of Thorns. Flanking the actual gate are open metalwork representations of the symbols of the Evangelists. The actual access beyond the gateway is now a long ramp running down against the revetting wall.
To the east of the church (to the right as you go through the gate) is a parish garden, the Giardino dell'Immacolata, which contains a polychrome ceramic statue of Our Lady on a plinth. This garden was recently provided as part of a project involving an underground car park and a sports hall which is adjacent.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church, as it is now is, is only the crypt of the proposed design. The fabric is in reinforced concrete, with brick infill.
The plan is hexagonal, elongated along the major axis. The corners of the hexagon are chamfered in the floor plan (thus creating a dodecahedron), and each chamfer is flanked by a pair of massive reinforced concrete piers that were to have supported the main church. These meld into very shallow arches each occupying the roofline of a side of the hexagon. The curve of each arch is occupied by a lunette window having a massive concrete beam as a sill, and below this the wall is infilled with pink brick.
The piers also support a pointed Gothic-style hood over each corner chamfer, thus creating an alcove. These in turn support the corners of the flat roof, which is strictly hexagonal without chamfered corners. This roof has a central square skylight, flush with the roof surface.
The alcoves each contain a small lunette window.
The convent and parish premises are to the left, a long transverse flat-roofed block joined on to the short side of the church nearest to it by a trapezoidal wing. The opposite short side of the church, to the right, contains the altar.
The entrance is in the side alcove to the right of the major axis. The only thing to notice about it is that the Gothic pointed arch of the alcove roofline is joined to a semi-circular tympanum above the door by a little concrete vault.
The interior is dominated by the concrete vaulted ceiling (structurally distinct from the flat roof above it). The dumpy supporting piers that you saw on the outside are prominent on the inside, and each of these is given a diagonally sloping roll-molding below the springing of the vault.
The shuttering marks of the concrete poured for the vault are still visible. Each pier is the springer for a thick rib which tapers to the crowning skylight oculus, and in between the ribs the vault is curved to match the arcs of the lunette windows in between the piers. The windows alternate as big and small, so the vault curvature is interesting.
The lunette windows are in clear glass. A rectangular window occupies the side alcove opposite the entrance. The alcoves nearest the altar form a pair of little side chapels, dedicated to Our Lady to the left and Christ to the right. They contain icons in a traditional Byzantine style.
The sanctuary is dominated by the church organ, placed behind the altar. Over it is suspended a large painted wooden crucifix.
Proposed church Edit
Layout compared to present church Edit
What was built does give a hint of the design proposal for the main church. However, there are two things immediately to note about what was proposed:
Firstly, it must be remembered that the alignment of the main church would have been exactly opposite to that now in place. That is, the entrance would have been over the present high altar, and the main high altar would have been in front of the convent.
Secondly, the roof of the present church (intended to have been the crypt) would only have been the central part of the floor of the nave. The main church would have been much larger, but still on a hexagonal plan with the present crypt nested within it. The odd trapezoidal wing now linking the convent premises with the church is actually on the footprint of the sanctuary of the proposed church.
The church would have occupied the present below-street-level void as far as the present edge of the street pavement, where the entrance gateway now is.
This would have been a spectacular domed hexagonal edifice, with the dome forming the entire roof. The dome would have been supported by six sets of massive concrete slab piers arranged radially, standing outside the footprint of the present church but aligned with the support piers of the present vault. There would have been six pairs of these main piers, four supporting diagonal ribs in the dome forming an X and two supporting a transverse rib on the church's minor axis. The former were to be infilled making solid tripletted piers, but the latter were split to accommodate two large round-headed windows at the side corners of the hexagon in the plan. (One interpretation of Muratori's drawings has smaller such windows bounded by the diagonally placed pairs of piers).
The side walls of the church, the two near diagonal ones and the two far diagonal ones, would have been like the present external side walls of the church as built. That is, they would have consisted of brick infill up to the level of a massive concrete beam forming the sill of a very large lunette window tucked into the curved roofline of the dome.
The shorter entrance and altar ends of the hexagonal layout would have had similar but smaller windows. However, the altar end of the church would have abutted onto the convent block (which would have had additional storeys), and the entrance end would have had a monumental prothyrium (of some sort) facing over an entrance stairway.
The domed concrete roof would have six upwardly curved concrete sectors, separated by the wide ribs just mentioned. These sectors would have met at a massive crowning finial, formed of six solid slabs arranged radially with a ball on top.
According to the Diocese, the church is open:
Daily 7:00 to 12:00, 15:30 to 21:00.
According to the parish website, Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 9:00, 19:00;
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 9:45 (not July, August), 11:00, 12:15 (not July, August), 19:00.
Public chapels Edit
The parish maintains two external Mass centres: