Nostra Signora del Suffragio a Torre Maura is a 20th century Fascist-era convent chapel at Via dei Colombi 47in the suburb of Torre Maura, north of the Via Casilina.
The Minim Sisters of Our Lady of Suffrage (Suore Minime di Nostra Signora del Suffragio) were founded at Turin in 1881 by Blessed Francesco Faà di Bruno, an important mathematician as well as a priest and religious founder.
They were named after a church in Turin which he had already founded in 1866, Nostra Signora del Suffragio e Santa Zita. His motivation in the foundation was to set up a religious congregation of women who would intercede for the souls in Purgatory through devotion to Our Lady, while being engaged in active works of charity.
The Torre Maura convent with its chapel is now one of the oldest edifices in the suburb. It was constructed in 1936, at a time when the suburb was nothing more that a rural slum, comprising shacks inhabited by destitute vagrants and displaced families. These lined a track, now the Via dei Colombi, pushed into the fields north from the electric railway station of Torre Maura.
The sisters opened a school, and provided the only social facilities that the locality had at the time.
Major suburban development only began in the Sixties. In response, the Diocese founded a new parish in 1975 which was named after the convent -Nostra Signora del Suffragio. This initially worshipped in the convent chapel, but maintained a centre at Via dei Tordi 12A which is an apartment block.
The new church of Nostra Signora del Suffragio e San Agostino di Canterbury was opened in 1998, and the chapel went back to being private.
The convent is now seriously reduced in numbers, but the school flourishes.
Layout and fabric Edit
The chapel is part of the convent block, but has a separate architectural identity. The convent wings are flat-roofed, but the chapel roof is pitched and tiled. The fabric is in brick.
There is a single nave of four bays, standing over a crypt and having the convent premises abutting it on the left and at the back. The right hand side wall is topped by a fascia, amounting to an entablature with a very deep frieze rendered in pale tan and with the roof overhanging slightly. Below, the wall is in red brick but is interrupted by four slightly recessed rectangular panels extending down from the fascia to the level of four crypt windows. These panels are also rendered in pale tan, and each contains a large rectangular window.
The rendering elsewhere is in the pale tan colour, unless specified.
The part of the convent at the back of the chapel has a small campanile or bell-cote on top of its near parapet. This has two storeys, the lower one amounting to a thick rendered horizontal rectangular slab with a single round-headed bell opening in it. The upper one is smaller, has a gable and the surfaces flanking its smaller bell-opening are in naked brick.
The impressive façade is raised above the partly above ground-level crypt. A pair of longitudinal staircases at either end of the frontage lead to a raised patio in front of the entrance, and below this is a recessed lunette crypt window with an archivolt frame in white, within a rendered wall. The parapet of this, between the tops of the staircases, supports two square red brick piers which themselves support an entrance prothyrum or porch which has a short barrel vault and a gabled roof. The piers have white imposts.
Behind, the actual chapel frontage is in two storeys divided by a white string course at the level of the imposts and which is interrupted by the prothyrum. Within the prothyrum, the end of the barrel vault shelters a round window. The upper storey is in blank render, but the lower storey has a pair of blink brick pilasters at the corners and the rendered wall surfaces between these and the prothyrum are in white with pale tan frames.
The most distinguished feature of the ensemble is a tall aedicule on top of the far side of the prothyrum roof and rising well above the nave roofline behind. It echoes the prothyrum in design, having a tall round-headed recess and a gabled tiled cap. It contains a large statue of Our Lady.