The dedication is to Jesus Christ, under his title of Divine Master.
This edifice amount to an impressive full-sized church but, according to the Diocese, its status is simply that of a chapel. However, it is routinely referred to as a church by those who use it and also in publications.
Foundation of congregation Edit
The establishment of the convent here was part of the vision of Blessed Giacomo Alberione, the founder of the Society of St Paul (Società San Paolo) and the other religious institutes of the Pauline Family. The overall charism of this is the propagation of evangelical activity by means of modern forms of communication including the mass media.
He founded the "Sister Disciples of the Divine Master" (Pie Discepole del Divin Maestro) at Alba in 1924 as the contemplative branch of the Pauline Family, with a spirituality centred on Eucharistic adoration and with outreaches in liturgical work and priestly assistance.
His vision for Rome was to found two large churches attached to Generalates or congregational headquarters, one for the Società and one for the Pie Discepole. The former is Santa Maria Regina degli Apostoli alla Montagnola, which was finished in 1954.
Building of church Edit
The project for the Divino Maestro church was inaugurated by Bl Giacomo in 1962, and the church was structurally complete by 1967. It was finally finished in 1970, when the last stained glass windows were installed. The overall design was his.
In 1987 Scolastica Rivata, the first superior of the Pie Discepole, was interred in a tomb here.
There was a major re-ordering of the interior in 1997. The altar was originally in the centre, under the dome lantern, with the seating of the congregation all around it. To the credit of the sisters, they had second thoughts about this liturgical aberration (pace San Stefano Rotondo) and moved the altar to the far end where a proper sanctuary was provided.
Recent status Edit
There have been some recent problems with the identity of the complex. Bl Giacomo intended the very large church and convent to function as the Generalate of the Pie Discepole, but this seems to have run aground on the perennial problem of lack of vocations. The convent premises have proved too large.
As a result, the Generalate has moved to an inner suburban villa at Via Gabriele Rossetti 17. The convent at Via Portuense remains as a provincial headquarters and the noviciate. However, its main function now is as a conference centre run by the sisters, the SGM Conference Center (that is its name in Italian). Also here is a pilgrim hospice, the Casa Betania.
The local parish church is San Giorolamo a Corviale, but the church is not a public Mass centre for the parish. However, even if the church is performing no "necessary" pastoral function it still demonstrates the founder's wish that a beautiful place of worship will strengthen the faith of the visitor.
This is one of the modern suburban churches of Rome most worth a visit.
This is a large edifice on an elliptical plan, strictly speaking an elliptic icosagon (twenty sides), with the church's major axis being that of the ellipse. The remote model for the structure is Santo Stefano Rotondo al Celio.
Despite the shape, the liturgical layout is now traditional with the sanctuary at the other end from the entrance. However, the former has no separate structural identity. When the church was first opened, the altar was in the centre but was moved in 1997.
The church consists of a large central dome, surrounded completely by an ambulatory with a continuous roof at a lower level. This ambulatory has twenty bays corresponding to the sides of the icosagon, but the back five bays form part of the sacristy and presbyteral accommodation which also includes a lower annexe wrapped around these five bays.
The entrance has a portal attached to the front three bays, from which a pair of identical covered passages run to the convent buildings.
The church stands on a crypt, below natural ground level but within a large excavated area which allows for windows around the sides and back.
There seems to be no campanile.
The church has a reinforced concrete frame, which is obvious both outside and inside. The infill is in travertine limestone and concrete.
The main dome is supported by twenty massive radially rectangular concrete piers, which support twenty beams forming the skeleton of the shallow saucer dome. These meet at a central lantern. The piers have pilaster strips up their long sides, which at the top support massive inverted V-beams which form twenty shallow gables at the dome roofline. Hence, the dome roof has twenty double pitches.
The ambulatory is framed in the same style. Twenty piers support twenty inverted V-beams, forming the gabled roofline of the ambulatory roof which has twenty double pitches.
Apart from the five bays at the back, each of the ambulatory bays has its wall in concrete with a window strip down each side next to the framing piers. Each of these strips is broken by a short beam at the same height. The bays fronted by the entrance portico also have these window strips, visible above the latter.
The sacristy bays have square windows below the roofline and above the flat-roofed annexe, but these are invisible from the interior of the church.
The dome drum, above the ambulatory roof, is entirely occupied by large stained glass windows inserted into the framework. These have thin concrete mullions, each with two vertical ones and a horizontal one low down.
The roof is laid in strips of what looks like dark grey lead, but is probably not. The lantern is an elliptical pill-box surrounded by a walkway with a safety fence, and is topped by four diagonal struts supporting a cross finial. The struts have top ends which angle outwards.
The entrance was deliberately designed to be monumental. The church stands away from the road and at an elevation above it, and the approach is flanked by two identical three-storey concrete convent wings each with three concrete roof gables echoing those of the church. In between these, two parallel longitudinal staircases ascend in three flights to the entrance piazza. In between the stairs are flower-beds, and at the bottom is the entrance to the church crypt (now signed SGM Conference Center. At the top is a statue of Bl Giacomo Alberione.
The piazza is paved to include two white strips framing the path to the church entrance, and this zone is surrounded by thinner arcs forming concentric circles in the paving.
The flat-roofed porch has three rectangular portals, separated by thin square concrete piers. It actually has seven portals, but two are occupied by identical enclosed corridors which run at a diverging angle to the convent wings just mentioned. The outer pair of portals access the convent grounds, and are gabled.
On the fascia of the porch is a dedicatory epigraph: Gesù maestro, via verità e vita ("Gesus the master, the way, the truth and the life" -Jn 6:14).
The interior of the porch is paved with polychrome marble.
The bronze portal is by Sr Angela Maria Ballan, one of the Pie Discepole and the theme is Come to me all you who are weary and heavily laden, and I will give you rest (Mt 11:28). This text is on the door of the tabernacle in the cathedral at Albe, and it inspired the youthful Bl Giacomo in his vocation.
The depiction shows two processions merging into one, representing the Jews and Gentiles coming together as one Church. The Jews on the left carry the Ark of the Covenant. Portrayed are Bl Giacomo, Sr Scolastica the foundress of the sisters and also Bl Timoteo Giaccardo, a Pauline priest instrumental in the early formation of their congregation. To the right are the emblems of the Pauline Family including a book and printing press. The olive leaves in glass allude to St Paul's allegory of the wild olive shoots being grafted onto a cultivated olive (the Gentiles joining the Jews in the infant Church -Rm 11:16-24), and the comet provides a date for the work -it is Comet Hale-Bopp 1997.
The church interior demonstrates the Modernist architectural principle that form follows function. It also triumphantly demonstrates that this need not result in ugliness.
The reinforced concrete frame of the edifice is in full view. The main piers supporting the dome end in prominent ribs meeting at the elliptical lantern, and these give a starburst effect to the interior of the dome. The gabled portals of the ambulatory are replicated in shape by the large stained glass windows above them. The wall panels of the ambulatory is clad in polished travertine limestone. The floor is in polished slabs of travertine and green basalt.
A free-standing holy water stoup (acquasantiera) in red marble stands inside the entrance, in the form of a tapered hexagonal tub on a wide stem.
The five far bays of the ambulatory are blocked off to form the sacristy area. The blocking is in concrete, which seems to have been intended to bear five enormous mosaic panels. Only the central one has been provided if so.
The mosaic shows Christ in Glory, with Our Lady below him. He is holding a scroll bearing the same text as seen over the church entrance -"I am the way, the truth and the life". They are being venerated by St Paul and St John the Evangelist. This work is by Sr Maria Agar Loche, one of the Pie Discepole.
Before 1997, the carved travertine altar stood on a circular black marble platform with four steps, under the lantern. It was flanked by two stone pulpits, attached to the mid-way ambulatory piers. In 1997, the far end of the church was converted into a sanctuary, again as a black marble platform with four steps, and the altar and pulpits moved to it.
Stained glass Edit
The spectacular set of twenty stained glass windows were designed by Cesarina Giordani, and were installed from 1966 (just as the structure of the church was being completed) to 1970. They illustrate aspects of Christian doctrine by means of abstract swirling and radiating forms.
The twenty windows give illustrate the entirety of creation and redemption. There are four sets of five windows each:-
- The Trinity
- The Creation of Light
- The Creation of the Universe.
- The Creation of Adam and Eve
- The City of Men
- God in the Old Testament
- Jesus Christ in the New Testament
- Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life
- The Spirit and the Church
- The People of the New Covenant
- The Eucharist
- The City of God
- Mary, Mother of the Church
- The Heavenly Jerusalem
- The Glory of the Saved
- The Light of Glory
The little vertical window strips in the ambulatory also have stained glass.
Mass is celebrated (church's web-page, July 2018):
Sundays and Solemnities 9:00.
The Divine Office is celebrated with Lauds at 6:30 (7:00 on Sundays and Solemnities), and Vespers at 19:00 (17:00 on Sundays and Solemnities).
There is Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on weekdays from 7:30 to 19:00, and on Sundays and Solemnities from 10:00 to 17:00. Eucharistic adoration is an integral part of the charism of the Sisters.