Nostra Signora di Bonaria is a late 20th century parish church at Via Nostra Signora di Bonaria 31, at the western end of Lido di Ostia and in a rather bleak and ugly suburban area. The zone is LdO Ponente.
The parish was erected in 1965, the mother parish of Santa Monica al Lido di Ostia being split.
The church was designed by Francesco Berarducci, Giorgio Monaco and Giuseppe Rinaldi working in partnership, and was completed in 1982. The project was actually inaugurated in 1967, but was seriously delayed and work only began in 1975.
This parish is unusual among those in Rome in having not a single other separate ecclesiastical institution in its territory.
This is a strong contender for the title of "Modern Roman Church Looking as Little Like a Church as Possible". It is certainly a challenging edifice, and its deliberate flouting of traditional ideas of what a church should look like is probably already rather dated. However, it is definitely worth visiting even if nothing else around here is -beware of the restricted opening hours, though (see below).
The church is part of a larger sports and social complex, occupying a complete city block. It has absolutely no civic profile, apart from its tower campanile, and its structure does not obviously relate to a liturgical axis. So, the customary layout of the architectural description of a church is hardly appropriate here. The main entrance to the church faces north and compass directions are used below.
The church proper occupies a square plan, is of one storey and shelters under one huge, flat and thick concrete slab roof the rough edges of which are left as deep overhanging eaves. This roof covers the square. Very oddly, this roof slopes from the east side to the west side where it almost reaches the ground. Obviously this indicates that the floor level of the church is below ground level.
The roof has several square recesses containing utilities in its eastern half, and near the south-east corner is a square light-well.
Roughly in the centre is a skew truncated cone rather like a volcano, with a circular skylight as its crater which throws light onto the main altar.
To the south of this is a smaller skylight structure, in the form of a low cylinder sliced through diagonally and having the skylight on its diagonal face. This structure bears a large cross finial. To the west of this is a standard circular flat skylight, over the church tabernacle.
To the south of this again is a low circular platform with battered edges, which covers the ferial chapel. In between this and the pair of smaller skylights is a very thin skylight strip which runs the full width of the roof, from east to west -the architects called this the "fissure" (la fessura).
The walls are in rough concrete, with windows in clear glass. There is no symmetry to them. On the north side, the wall is a sweeping outward curve sheltering under the roof which acts as an enormous canopy for the void created -this shelters the entrance. The curve is liturgically the front wall of the main worshipping area.
The entrance is accessed through a garden which is a little oasis for the rather grim locality.
Parish offices Edit
The parish offices were built as an afterthought to the original plan, and append to the east side of the church in order to extend the square plan into a rectangle. The plan is in the form of an E, with the arms joining the church in three places. There are two storeys, and the flat overall roof follows the same slope as that of the church. On the north side there is a smooth join between the two roof, but on the south side the parish frontage is recessed from that of the church forming a vertical step. The eaves overhang.
The campanile is a tower that rises from the west side of the main body of the E of the parish centre. It is formed of two huge upright slabs of concrete, standing parallel west to east and with a gap between them in which ithe bells are hung. The base above the centre's roofline is a cube in concrete, and the bottom of the gap to west and east is curved in two parabolas where it joins this.
The main body of the church, as hinted at already, is on a vaguely semi-circular plan. The architects actually used an ancient theatre as a model, with backless curved benches rising in a tier and focusing on the altar which is on a circular platform. The otherwise low roof, in rough concrete as are the walls, has an enormous skew conical void with a circular skylight throwing light on the altar.
The lack of backs to the seating has not been liked by many who actually use the church, especially the elderly.
The altar itself has a polychrome depiction of The Supper at Emmaus.
Behind the altar are two cylindrical concrete structures reaching to the roof. The lower part of the one on the right has its front cut out to reveal a void, in which the free-standing tabernacle is placed. This is in the form of a cubical bronze box inserted into the top of a concrete cone decorated with gilded strips, which cross each other diagonally and are arranged so as to appear to come from the sunburst motif on the tabernacle door.
The other cylinder, on the left, has its entire front cut away, and the lower half contains a surface that slopes back. In front of this is the seat of the priest, which has a transparent perspex back with a triangle cut out of it in honour of the Trinity. The void above the seat contains a hanging flat crucifix, with the painted corpus surrounded by doves. This is lit by the skylight at the top of the cylinder.
Behind the two cylinders, the roof is split transversely by the "fissure" skylight strip.
The ferial chapel is accessed to the far left hand side. The roof in here has a large circular void with a sloping flat top, and this is above a three-quarter circular bench focusing on the altar. The other seating surrounding this consists of standard backed pews.
According to the Diocese, the opening hours are rather restricted:
Weekdays 8:00 to 9:30, 17:15 to 18:45 (17:45 to 19:15 in DST);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:00 to 13:00, 17:00 to 18:45 (17:30 to 19:15 in DST).
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:30, 18:00 (18:30 during DST);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 18:00 (18:30 during DST).
According to the Diocese, there is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament between 17:00 and 18:00 on Fridays (half an hour later in DST) and between 9:00 and 9:30 on Saturdays.