Nostra Signora di Valme is a late 20th century parish church at Via di Vigna Due Torri 82 in the Portuense quarter, very close to the Villa Bonelli train station. Pictures of the church at Wikimedia Commons are here.
The parish was set up in 1982, and entrusted to the Obra de la Iglesia (in English "The Work of the Church", in Italian Opera della Chiesa).
The involvement of this Spanish ecclesial movement, open to membership from both clergy and laity, explains the very unusual (for Italy) church dedication. The movement was founded in 1959 at Dos Hermanas near Seville in Spain, and in the same city is the old Marian shrine of Our Lady of Valme. Hence the movement requested the dedication for the new parish.
The church was designed by Giuseppe Spina, and completed in 1996. The Opera oversaw a later re-ordering of the sanctuary, which involved the provision of panels of stained glass behind the altar.
This church is part of a parish complex which is unusually large although, also unusually for new suburban Roman parishes, it seems to lack outdoor sports facilities. The site slopes, and this is taken advantage of by providing a ground-level crypt at the back of the church and also by stepping the outside spaces down towards the railway at several levels.
The church proper is an impressive, rather high-tech edifice. It is on the plan of a broad rectangle, almost square, attached to which is a narrower sanctuary. To the left hand side is attached the ferial chapel, an irregular pentagon formed from two short transverse sides connected by unequal outer sides meeting at an oblique angle.
The ancillary structures are also striking, and are found on both sides of the church. To the left is the convent block, a free-standing structure comprising a long two-storey block with an obtuse angle in it, which steps down to become three storeys at the back. The otherwise flat roof has a cylindrical pill-box over the entrance.
A return wing connects this block to the sacristy facilities at the back of the church.
To the right is an impressive large semi-circular aula, also in red brick with a very large wrap-around window overlooking the street which has a stepped edge to its near side.
The church fabric has a reinforced concrete frame, with infill in clear glass and high-quality red brick.
The dominant and obvious design feature is that the separate nave and sanctuary roofs have quite steep pitches. The nave roof slopes back in a single pitch from the tall entrance frontage to a gully, from which the sanctuary pitch slopes up to the back of the church.
The main nave is supported by massive slab piers. The front pair slope back at an angle, and are free-standing. The middle pair are vertical, and the back pair slope forwards and are squat because of the slope of the roof. These piers support an enormous concrete box frame in which is the roof, which comprises a concrete grid creating square coffers on the underside.
The right hand side is a blank brick wall, with outwardly sloping front and back edges (the front slope is reverse to that of the front piers). The left hand side wall is all in glass, surrounding the protruding ferial chapel which is lower than the main church, with blank brick walls and a flat roof.
The sanctuary has its own box frame roof with support piers, which is slightly narrower than that of the nave. The frame is actually inserted within that of the nave, with the front piers standing next to and within the far corner piers of the nave frame. The far wall, behind the altar, is all in glass.
The entrance frontage is spectacular. The concrete nave roof extends outwards to form a canopy, coffered in squares as it is inside, and is supported by the enormous sloping concrete frame piers. The frontage wall below this is again entirely of clear glass, sloping outwards from bottom to top.
There is a flat skeletal entrance canopy supported by four smaller sloping struts, which comprises two transverse rows of open concrete squares. This structure is all in white -the main concrete elements of the church are in grey. This runs the length of the frontage, except for the left hand side where it is blocked by the intruding ferial chapel which has a battered (sloping) front wall. The chapel entrance is found here.
The deliberately retro set of iron covent railings, including a gate, is worth a glance. The piers are in white limestone with rectangular inlays in red marble; the gate piers have lanterns, and the other piers have ball finials.
The interior displays the same structural elements as found on the outside -grey concrete frame, red brick walls and a roof in coffered squares. Most of the glass in the large window areas is clear, except behind the altar. The floor is laid in a geometric pattern of light grey and brown, with squares echoing the roof above.
The altar is on a semi-circular platform of polished limestone, with three steps. The altar itself is a four-legged table in the same stone. The lectern or ambo on the right is formed of two parallel stone slabs, like planks. The baptismal font, over on the right beyond the platform, is a simple cylindrical stone tub.
The altarpiece used to be an icon of the Virgin of Valme. In the recent re-ordering this was replaced by a copy statue of her. Below is the tabernacle, a very impressive white marble work in Cosmatesque style.
The statue and tabernacle is now backed by a large stained glass panel, with stepped edges. The design of the glass is vaguely mediaeval. The statue is backed by orange glass in a round-headed yellow frame, and is flanked by a pair of adoring angels. Six small roundels with geometric patterns surround two large ones with figurative depictions of the foundation of the Valme shrine in Spain. The king depicted is St Ferdinand III of Castile, who conquered Seville from the Muslims and who has a church dedicated to him in Rome - San Ferdinando Re.
According to the Diocese, the main church is open:
Weekdays 6:30 to 13:00, 16:00 to 20:30;
Sundays and Solemnities 7:00 to 13:30; 16:00 to 20:45.
The ferial chapel has separate opening times for Exposition (see below).
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:45 (not July and August), 9:15 and 19:00,
Sundays and Solemnities 9:00, 10:30, 12:00 (not August), 19:00.
The parish has a devotion to the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. This is mostly in the ferial chapel:
Weekdays 7:00 to 22:00 (from July to September 7:00 to 9:15, 18:00 to 20:30);
Sundays and Solemnities 15:30 to 22:00 (from July to September, 7:30 to 9:00, 18:00 to 20:30).
However, a more formal Exposition occurs in the church:
Fridays (Wednesdays in Lent) 19:30 to 20:30, and Sundays and Solemnities 17:55 to 18:55.
External Mass centres Edit
The Diocese lists two separate chapels where Mass is publicly celebrated, although the parish website does not:
- San Giovanni Ventitre (XXIII) a Borgata Petrelli, at Via dell’Imbrecciato 289.
- Cappella dell'Istituto "Colle La Salle".
This is a large school founded in 1950, at Via dell’Imbrecciato 181. The chapel has no separate architectural identity, but the school apparently has its own chaplain. It is odd and not pastorally sensible to have two public chapels in the same street, and it may be that the school chapel has been open to the public while the other was recently shut during a land dispute.
The Diocese advertises a public Mass here on weekdays at 7:00; on Sundays and Solemnites, 8:00 and 11:00 "from the middle of September to June".