Nostra Signora del Santissimo Sacramento e Santi Martiri Canadesi is a mid 20th century parish, conventual and titular church, located at Via Giovanni Battista de Rossi 46 in the Nomentano quarter north-west of the Bologna metro station. An English Wikipedia page is here.
The dedication is jointly to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of the Eucharist, and to SS John Brébeuf and Companions, eight Jesuits who were martyred in Canada in the 17th century.
This is also the Canadian national church.
WARNING -NO ACTIVITIES FOR CANADIANS ARE BEING ADVERTISED. ALL MASSES SEEM TO BE IN ITALIAN.
The church was founded by the Congregation of Priests of the Most Holy Sacrament, which decided to establish their Generalate or congregational headquarters on the site in 1948. This scheme for a large convent also included a parish church which would be a centre of Eucharistic adoration. As a result, the parish was set up in that year by Pope Pius XII.
The church was begun in 1950, and completed in 1955. The architect was Bruno Maria Apollinj Ghetti. One of the Sacramentines, Fr Robert Fortin from Canada, was instrumental in raising funds for the project in Canada and floating the idea of making this the Canadian national church. The proximity of the Canadian Embassy to the site was another factor.
Initially the name of the church was simply Nostra Signora del Santissimo Sacramento. The revised dedication was imposed in 1962, with a re-consecration.
An enormous and important mosaic by Marko Rupnik was provided for the façade in 2007 (it was blessed in the following year).
Unfortunately, the Canadian embassy moved away in the same year of 2007. Despite its status, the church seems to attract little attention nowadays from Canadian visitors and expatriates.
The church has been titular since February 1965, when Maurice Roy became the first cardinal priest until his death in 1985. (He held the title pro hac vice for the first three years, for the title was only formally erected in 1968.) He was succeeded by Paul Grégoire, from 1988 to 1993. Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montréal, was created cardinal in 1994, but died in 2015. The title is presently (2015) vacant.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church is a rectangular edifice in the Modernist style, situated with the major axis parallel to the street. However, the plan is derived from the traditional basilical one familiar for Roman churches earlier in the 20th century.
The edifice stands on an underground crypt, which extends under the entire floor area. The main building has four distinct structural elements. Firstly there is an entrance narthex, occupying one bay. Then follows a nave of five bays, with no external aisles. After this is a transept, and finally a sanctuary apse.
The five-storey L-shaped convent block is attached to the left side of the church from the fourth nave bay onwards, but this is not obvious from the street.
The church seems to have no campanile.
Materials used are concrete, limestone and bright red brick.
The narthex is a monumental rectangular block, higher than the nave behind and with a flat roof. It has two storeys. The first is about a quarter of the height, and is simply walled in rough-cut travertine limestone ashlar blocks. The main entrance (there is a small side entrance round the right hand corner) is a large rectangular portal, flanked by two vertical rectangular panels in white limestone each decorated with a relief carving of tessellated hexagons containing fleurs-de-lys. This is an allusion to the heraldry of the Canadian province of Quebec, the stronghold of the Catholic Church in Canada.
The second storey is clad in fine white limestone, and has a horizontal roofline. Its façade is divided into three vertical zones of equal width. The flanking ones each have four thin vertical rectangular blind pilasters, giving a corrugated effect, while the central zone is occupied by a very large mosaic in a figurative style. There is no cornice or entablature at the roofline -the pilasters just end.
The sides of the narthex block are blank dressed stone walls, containing three rows of five vertical rectangular windows. The rows are well separated from each other, and windows in the top row are much taller than the others.
The mosaic was inaugurated in 2008, replacing a formerly blank panel, and is by Marko Rupnik. There are three scenes, from bottom to top: the Crucifixion, with two of the Canadian martyrs; the Breaking of Bread at Emmaus (with Our Lady Hodegetria), and Christ in Glory with the Canadian Martyrs. The style is neo-Byzantine. Note the little raccoon in the bottom right hand corner.
The nave of the church has five bays, and these are indicated on the street-side wall by large red brick panels edged with stone, and separated by thinner recessed panels in stone. The stone framing of the brick panels have quoins at the sides, giving a vertical crenellated pattern.
Each bay has a parabolic window at the top, and sits on a stone plinth with a very low archway over a horizontal slit window. The wall below these windows is of rough masonry in blocks of varying sizes, similar to that at the entrance.
The nave roof is made up of five very shallow rectangular cupolas, separated by transverse gutters.
The transept is the third structural element along the major axis. It is indicated in the street side frontage by another zone of vertical pilasters in the same style as appears on the entrance frontage, except here there are eight pilasters. They rise above a short ambulatory or covered passage, running from a door at the far right hand corner of the nave to another door into ancillary accommodation behind the church apse. Here there is an "arcade" of three portals, not proper arches since the tops of the portals are three-sided in the shape of half an irregular hexagon.
The roof of the transept is in the form of another very shallow cupola, higher than the nave roof and with a wide window occupying each side (you can see this design feature from the street below).
The transept is narrower than the nave, and is slightly trapezoidal. The far side along the major axis is slightly narrower than the near side, so the side walls angle inwards.
The fourth and final element in the plan is an apse which is slightly narrower than the transept and is also slightly trapezoidal. The walls are all blank, in fine ashlar stonework, and the roof has a single very steep pitch. The back wall has no windows, but there is a vertical window strip on each side at the junction with the transept.
Layout and fabric Edit
On entering, you find yourself in a foyer with a flight of stairs on each side. One of these leads down to the crypt, which contains the baptistery. The other leads up to meeting-rooms housed in the narthex block above the foyer.
The nave has a spectacular design, involving transverse parabolic concrete arches separating the bays. These are each in the form of enormous paired slabs, with no decoration or any feature that interrupts their curve from the ground to the top. In between one arch and the next on each side is a horizontal concrete beam with a slight curve to its underside, and these support galleries running down both sides of the nave. Below the galleries are narrow side aisles passing behind the springing of the arches.
The high altar has a tall baldacchino, with four legs enclosing parabolic voids on each side. This has sculptural details in glazed and coloured terracotta, and is by by Angelo Biancini. On top is a Calvary. The tabernacle and monstrance is by Francesco Nagni. Bianci also executed the terracotta ambo or pulpit, which has panels depicting The Last Supper and The Madonna and Child.
The stained glass windows are by János Hajnal and Marcello Avenali, and feature Biblical scenes and symbols relating to the Eucharist. Hajnal also executed the engraved glass doors for the confessionals. These depicts Biblical scenes relevant to the doctrine of the Sacrament of Penance.
The shrine of Our Lady of the Eucharist, with a statue and bas-reliefs, is by Eugenio De Courten.
Mass is celebrated, according to the parish website:
Weekdays 7:00, 8:30, 11:00, 18:30;
Sundays and Solemnities 9:00, 10:30, 12:00, 19:30.
Vespers is celebrated daily at 18:00, but on Sundays and Solemnities at 19:00.
There is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament daily from 9:00 to 18:30, which on Fridays is extended to midnight.
The Solemnity of the Canadian Martyrs is celebrated on 19 October.
The writer has found no evidence of any liturgical activity by, or on behalf of, Canadian visitors or expatriates. Masses in English or French are not being advertised, and the parish website hints at a studied lack of interest on the part of the church's administrators.
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