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Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Maria di Porto Santa Rufina

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Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Maria di Porto Santa Rufina is the mid 20th century cathedral of the diocese of Porto Santa Rufina, although it is in the municipality of Rome. It is at Via del Cenacolo 45, in the old village of La Storta which is on the Via Cassia, north-west of the city. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.

The joint dedication is to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

History of dioceseEdit

The present diocese results from the union of two ancient ones. Firstly, the diocese and town of Porto used to be situated at the mouth of the Tiber, on the present Isola Sacra near of Fiumicino (and hence not in the present municipality of Rome). The town was abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire, and in the late 9th century the bishop transferred his cathedral to in Rome. He took up residence next to the present church of San Giovanni Calibita on the Isola Tiberina.

Secondly, the diocese of Santa Rufina became established at the basilica founded at Selva Candida on the site where SS Rufina and Secunda were martyred (other sources place this church on the Via Aurelia, 14 miles from Rome). The basilica was ruined in raids by marauders in the 9th century, and the bishop also took up residence on Isola Tiberina where he later used San Bartolomeo all'Isola as his cathedral when that church was built.

The boundary of the latter diocese in the early Middle Ages was the Tiber, and included the Vatican (with St Peter’s), Trastevere and Isola Tiberina. This state of affairs lasted until the popes moved back to Rome from Avignon permanently in the 14th century, and took up residence at the Vatican instead of the Lateran. The bishops of these two dioceses both continued to reside on the Isola Tiberina, until the two dioceses were united in 1124. The cathedral later moved to Cerveteri, and then to Santi Ippolito e Lucia in Porto when that place became a settlement again.

The diocese was so depopulated for most of its history that the office of bishop was treated as an honorific. It only became important again in the 19th century, when Rome began its suburban expansion. This accelerated in the 20th century, when the municipality of Rome annexed several districts which belonged in the diocese, west and north-west of the Grande Raccordo Anulare. Much of this area is still rural.

History of cathedralEdit

The original place of worship of the village of La Storta was Sant'Ignazio alla Storta, a very small church. It was already inadequate at the start of the 20th century, when the presence of a railway station initiated the suburban expansion of the village. Back then Sant'Ignazio was in the care of the Jesuits, and the construction of a larger church was initiated in 1923 by Leopold Fonck, a German Jesuit professor teaching in Rome. The intention was to dedicate it to St Margaret Mary Alacoque.

The first architect chosen was Giuseppe Astori, who proposed a neo-Renaissance design on a basilical plan. This involved a vaulted single nave having side chapels, and a semi-circular apse. However, Astori was quickly passed over in favour of Filippo Sneider, who envisaged a Greek cross plan when the foundation stone was laid in 1926.

However, the project stalled for twenty years after money quickly ran out and the uncompleted edifice was left derelict.

In 1944 Sant'Ignazio was destroyed in a bombing raid, leaving the village without a place of worship. In response, Cardinal Eugène Tisserant (bishop of the diocese from 1946) re-started the project in 1948. The present cathedral was completed in 1950, being raised to the status of cathedral just before its completion. The campanile was finished in 1955, to a design by Scipione Tadolini (obviously not the famous sculptor).

Unfortunately, problems arose with the integrity of the edifice which forced its closure and restoration from 2008 to 2010.

Exterior Edit

Setting Edit

The site chosen was a prominent hillock between the main road (the Via Cassia) and the railway. The need to provide a level site and also to widen the road required major civic engineering works, which have resulted in the church being on a platform having a two-storey stone revetment to the east and overlooking the road. Direct access from the road is by means of a long stairway. Level and vehicular access is from Via Renato Mainardi to the north, and then Via del Cenacolo which accesses the car park and then runs in front of the church in between the two storeys of revetment. It joins the main road further to the south.

Layout Edit

The plan is based on a Greek cross, with four arms of equal length. The ends of the side and sanctuary arms are occupied by large semi-circular apses. The near side walls of the side arms have a pair of little external chapels, apsidal in shape, and these are fronted by two open loggias flanking the entrance façade.

A covered walkway runs from the left hand loggia to a substantial five and four storey complex occupied by St George's British International School. This looks as if it should be the Curia of the diocese, but that occupies a separate building to the north-west of the church.

The right hand loggia abuts a tall campanile on its right hand side.

The far sides of the side arms are occupied by ancillary and sacristy accommodation, which also wraps round the sanctuary apse in the style of a tall ambulatory.

Fabric Edit

The fabric is in high-quality red brick, with the rooflines having simply molded stone cornices. Each side wall (eight in all) has a fenestration comprising a window arcade of three round-headed windows in red brick with a round window above it. This ensemble is enclosed in a simple molded arch springing from a slightly projecting lintel, arch and lintel being in a brownish grey stone. The wall surface within the arch is rendered in a similar colour, but slightly lighter.

The apses are decorated by large recessed round-headed panels in the brickwork, which in the side apses occupy three-quarters of the height but on the main apse start above the ambulatory.

You might expect a dome, but there isn't one. Instead, each cross arm has a pitched and tiled roof and the four roofs join in an X. The slightly lower apses have their own tiled roofs, the side ones having four sectors each but the slightly larger apse one having six.

Campanile Edit

The tower campanile is 45 metres high, in six storeys. The first storey is in the form of a plinth in large rough-hewn limestone blocks. The next five storeys have the corners edged in similarly large but smooth-dressed stone blocks, but the side walls are otherwise in pink brick (a lighter hue than that of the church). The second and third storeys have a window slit on each face, but the fourth and fifth have two. The six storey is the bell-chamber, and each side of this has a row of three round-headed openings in white, contained in a larger outline arch. The central aperture of each set is larger. The cap is a low pyramid.

Façade Edit

The façade of the main entrance is dominated by an enormous arch in grey stone, with Doric pilasters and a molded archivolt. Within this, the frontage is clad in white marble tiles laid in a diaper pattern. The large entrance door, inserted into this, has a frame in the same grey stone, and above it is a smaller arch containing a row of three arched windows in brick. Above these in the smaller arch is more of the grey stone, and a tondo containing a mosaic.

The mosaic depicts The Sacred Hearts, and is by Luciano Vinardi.

The main façade is flanked by two loggias, with singly pitched tiled roof ending at the sills of the fenestrations of the near walls of the side cross arms. The frontage of each loggia is in brick, and contains two completely undecorated arched portals. These loggias contain side entrances.

Interior Edit

Fabric Edit

The cross arms of the interior have barrel-vaults, with lunettes over the side wall fenestrations. The crossing is bounded by four wide rib archivolts springing from Doric pilasters, the capitals of which are continued all round the interior as a string course.

The interior is decorated very simply, in white and light grey. Before 2010 the sanctuary vault was in a dull red, but this has been changed.

The sanctuary apse wall is mostly taken up by five large rectangular recessed panels, with the bishop's cathedral chair in the central one. The panels on either side each have three round-headed apertures with grilles, which communicate with the ancillary accommodation behind the apse.

The windows of the church have stained glass depicting the patron saints of the diocese and of its parishes. These were designed by Luciano Vinardi.

The Stations of the Cross are by Albert Serrire.

Side chapels Edit

The near walls of the side cross arms each have a doorway into a little semi-circular chapel. The one on the right is dedicated to the Crucifix, while the one on the left is the baptistery and contains the font.

The apses at the ends of the side arms comprise two large chapels, and are completely covered by a pair of large frescoes by Stéphanie Guerzoni, executed between 1960 and 1965 in a charmingly realistic style.

The chapel on the left is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and the fresco depicts Pentecost. Our Lady is shown enthroned, and presiding over the infant Church.

The chapel on the right is of the Sacred Heart. The fresco shows various saints in veneration of the Sacred Heart, with St Margaret Mary Alacoque kneeling. There are several Jesuit saints here; St Ignatius is the first on the left, with St Robert Bellarmine in cardinal's robes, and St Aloysius Gonzaga is first on the right.

Liturgy Edit

Church Edit

Mass is celebrated:

Weekdays 18:30;

Sundays and Solemnities 8:00, 10:00, 11:30, 18:30.

Subsidiary Mass centres Edit

The parish operates three subsidiary Mass centres:

San Giovanni Calabria a Valle della Storta

Sant'Ignazio alla Storta

Madonna della Strada

External linksEdit

Diocesan website

Italian Wikipedia page

Italian Wikipedia page on diocese

Parish website

Info.roma web-page (contains erroneous information)

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