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Madonna del Cenacolo

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Madonna del Cenacolo is a mid 20th century convent chapel at Piazza Madonna del Cenacolo 15, in the suburb of Balduina in the Trionfale district north of Vatican City.

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

History Edit

The Sisters of the Cenacle (Suore di Nostra Signora del Ritiro al Cenacolo) are a religious congregation of French origin, founded in 1826 at Lalouvesc by St Theresa Couderc. The main focus of their charism has been the provision of spiritual retreat centres (the congregation's spirituality is Ignatian), but child and adult catechesis has also been a major interest.

The congregation built a large convent and chapel in Rome in the mid 20th century, and this became its Generalate or headquarters.

Recent years have not been kind. This is one of the congregations of sisters that abandoned the veil in the later 20th century, and these particular congregations have suffered an especially sharp decrease in vocations. In response to the decline, in 2011 the provinces in Europe, with one convent in Africa, were consolidated into one province, the "Europe-Togo Province". The congregation seems to have abandoned a centralised Generalate, and the complex at Balduina is now described as the Casa Provinciale Europa-Togo.

A large part of the complex, but not the central chapel (it seems) is now run as the Centro Pellegrini Santa Teresa Couderc. This is a large and well-appointed pilgrim hostel and conference centre. However, it does not give directed retreats as is the congregation's tradition.

The Diocese now lists only three sisters resident in Rome, and (rather alarmingly) is not listing the main chapel as a location for celebrating Mass (luoghi sussidiari di culto). This indicates that the Diocese is no longer providing the convent with chaplaincy services.

Situation Edit

The chapel is the centrepiece of the monumental convent complex, which is a five-storey affair arranged symmetrically around two enclosed courtyards. It stands in extensive and grounds, away from the street. The main gateway is on the Piazza Madonna del Cenacolo, which is actually a roundabout with a clump of pine trees, and the chapel is visible up a short drive from this.

(The Centro Pellegrini has its own access, however, at Via Vincenzo Ambrosio 9.)

Appearance Edit

The chapel is a tall two-storey polygonal structure, having a concrete frame with red brick infill in the second storey. It stands on a crypt.

The first storey is octagonal, the octagon being slightly lengthened along the major axis. The walls are in exposed concrete, poured in horizontal bands of light and dark grey. There is a single entrance, accessed by a flight of steps because of the crypt, and over this is a tablet with a dedicatory inscription. Five sides of the octagon are flanked by an open flat-roofed canopy just a little less than the full height of this storey, and this is supported by rectangular concrete piers which meld with the outer roofline beams.

At the two far diagonal sides of the octagon, this storey joins the convent edifice. The far side of the octagon joins with the rectangular sanctuary, which is embedded in the convent but has its own pitched and tiled roof.

The second storey is in red brick within a concrete frame, and is hexagonal not octagonal. The corners are occupied by light grey concrete piers supporting the roofline beams, and two thinner piers are embedded in each face of the hexagon towards the corners -except for the back. These frame an expanse of blank red brick. Below the roofline on each side is a window slit, divided into three by these thin piers and having a thin beam below it.

The zones in between each corner pier and adjacent thin pier contains a thick vertical window strip flanked by thin strips of brickwork and divided into three by two short and thick concrete mullions.

The front face of this storey displays a relief in what looks like bronze, which seems to depict St Ignatius of Loyola preaching.

The back end of this storey, joining onto the sanctuary, only has the horizontal window strip below the roofline.

The roof is pitched and tiled in eight sectors. These meet at an interesting lantern, in the form of a low hexagonal concrete box with very short front and back sides, an overhanging cornice and three square windows in each diagonal side. It bears a flèche in bronze, shaped like a steep rhomboidal pyramid made of six bunched sword-shaped metal elements on each side. This seems to allude to the symbol of the congregation, which is a flame of fire.

Interior Edit

No information. The writer has not been able to get in here, and there seem to be no photos online.

External links Edit

Official diocesan web-page

Info.roma web-page

Congregation's website

Website of the Centro Pellegrini

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