L’Annunziatella is a restored 13th century subsidiary parish church with a postal address at Via di Grotta Perfetta 591 in the suburban district named after it, which is to the south of the city on the Via Ardeatina. This is part of the Ardeatino quarter. The actual entrance is on the Vicolo dell'Annunziatella.
There is a set of catacombs here.
Also see Santissima Annunziata a Via Ardeatina.
The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under the aspect of her Annunciation. The nickname L'Annunziatella means “Little Annunciation” (referring to the size of the edifice), and is sometimes found rendered as Nunziatella.
Beware of confusing this church with one of the same name at Naples.
The early history is obscure but there seems to have been a rural church here early on, because a small catacomb was discovered under the present building, the Catacomb of the Nunziatella. This was the burial place of a simple village, not part of the funerary arrangements of the city. The original name of the settlement concerned is unknown.
The church was rebuilt in 1220, and most of the fabric dates from this period. It was already being visited by pilgrims at the time, because it is situated between the two major basilicas of San Sebastiano fuori le Mura and San Paolo fuori le Mura. As a result, a hospice was attached to it which specialized in pilgrims suffering from malaria.
The complex was restored by Cardinal Francesco Barberini on behalf of the Confraternity of the Gonfalone in 1640. This pious society was based at Santa Lucia del Gonfalone, and administered the hospice on behalf of the increasing number of people doing the Seven Church Walk. It was convenient to visit San Sebastiano and then cut across to San Paolo when performing this devotion, instead of going back to the city and then out again. However, the entire area was a barren and overgrazed sheep-walk with scattered ancient ruins and no trees, so the hospice was very welcome if only for refreshments.
An anonymous set of painting was provided for the church in 1710.
In 1714, the church became a subsidiary place of worship in the new parish of San Sebastiano.
Only in 1935, with suburban development occurring, was the church made parochial in its own right. The parish was briefly in the care of the Society of Priests of St Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo, but was soon taken over by diocesan clergy.
The church was made titular in 1965 by Blessed Pope Paul VI, as a cardinal diaconate. However, no cardinal was appointed -which hints that the intended candidate had died, or had become persona non grata for some reason.
The modern parish church of Santissima Annunziata a Via Ardeatina was built on a site just to the east in 1987, because the parish has become too large for its tiny church. The title was transferred to it.
The parish now uses the old church as its ferial chapel, in effect, and calls it the Chiesa piccola. Weekday Masses are celebrated here. The new church is the Chiesa grande, and Mass is celebrated there on Sundays and Solemnities.
The church is on a rectangular plan, with a proportionally long single nave and a semi-circular apse. It is in brick, rendered in a pale pink.
The very simple façade merely has an entrance door framed in stone, with a plain horizontal rectangular window above it and a semi-circular lunette window above that. There is no decoration.
The hospice buildings are attached to the church on the right hand side. There is a wing fronting on the street, then behind the main accommodation around a small cloister on the other side of a courtyard.
A tower campanile is attached to the right hand side of the church, on the near left hand corner of the main buildings. It is not easy to see from the street. It is a brick tower of three storeys above the roofline, with the storeys separated by projecting stone cornices with modillions. There is an undecorated round-headed aperture in each face of the bell-chamber.
The interior is a simple single nave, and an apsidal sanctuary. To the right is a dedication plaque of Pope Honorius III, dated 12 August 1220.
There is a terracotta crucifix of the early 18th century (?).
The 1710 job-lot of paintings include St Charles Borromeo Interceding for a Lady (she is unknown) and The Apotheosis of St Aloysius Gonzaga. Another dates from 1625 and features Our Lady of Gonfalone, showing Our Lady praying for the souls in Purgatory, with her cloak spread over them.
The Baroque decoration of the apse belongs to the Barberini restoration. The triumphal arch is semi-circular, and is fitted into the shallower curve of the apse. The spandrels have frescoes of angels. The archivolt is in white, with decorative molding picked out in gilding, and springs from two entablatures having gilded vine-scrolls on their friezes. These entablatures are supported by two pairs of Ionic columns in alabaster, the outer columns having their capitals cropped, and run into the apse as far as the altarpiece.
The altar has been brought forward. It has a polychrome stone frontal, mostly in alabaster and verde antico.
The altarpiece behind is a fresco of The Annunciation dated 1510, framed by a pair of caryatid pilasters which support posts. On the posts are two stucco angels holding a cross within a garland, over an omega cornice sheltering the altarpiece. The altarpiece is flanked by two other paintings dated 1710, the left featuring The Adoration of the Magi and the right, St Dominic Intercedes with Our Lady for the Souls in Purgatory.
The apse conch has further vine-scroll decoration, but white on gold instead of gold on white as with the entablature. It is divided into five sectors by ribs, each with a little painted panel. The middle one is Our Lady of Gonfalone again, with her cloak.
The catacombs are closed to visitors.
The layout of is modest, focusing on a single cubiculum or chamber. However, this has an impressive vault fresco of The Last Judgment which dates to the late 3rd century. Christ is depicted in the centre of the composition with the book of the Law in his left hand, and around him are saints interceding with him. In the four corners are four people in the act of prayer (oranti), each accompanied by a pair of sheep. The theme is the supplication to Christ for the souls of those buried here.
Mass is only celebrated on weekdays:
7:30, 9:00, 18:00.