|Sacro Cuore Immacolato di Maria|
|English name:||Sacred Immaculate Heart of Mary|
|Latin name:||Sacri Cordis Beatae Mariae Virginis ad Forum Euclidis|
|Dedication:||Blessed Virgin Mary|
|Built:||Early 20th century|
|Address:|| Piazza Euclide 5|
|Phone:||06 80 70 359|
Sacro Cuore Immacolato di Maria is a minor basilica and a parish and titular church dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The postal address is Via del Sacro Cuore di Maria 5 in the Pinciano district, but the main entrance is on the Piazza Euclide. The Euclide metro station is adjacent. Picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons.
This large but badly-proportioned church, with its generous floorspace but mean elevation, witnesses to the sad history of its construction.
The project to build a spectacular church in the neo-Classical style with a soaring dome, as a centrepiece for the suburb of Pinciano north of the Villa Borghese, was begun in 1923 to the design of Armando Brasini. It would have been comparable in grandeur with Gran Madre di Dio, just north-west across the river, though perhaps not quite as magnificent. Funds were promised from various Italian communities in Canada, but the trouble started when that country was badly hit by the Great Depression after 1929. The completion of the crypt allowed the parish to be erected in 1936, and the monumental entrance propylaeum together with the curvaceous outer walls and their embellishing columns were also completed.
However, the second storey elevation of the nave and transepts had to have their design simplified as funds dried up, with more red brick and less stone. Marcello Piacentini took over as architect, but progress languished during and just after the Second World War. Finally, the Diocese decided that spending money on the provision of a proper dome could not be justified, especially as modern suburbs were springing up requiring new churches. The portion of the drum that had been completed was given a flat roof with a shallow octagonal saucer dome in 1951, which was the end of hopes for building.
Financial problems delayed the formal consecration of the church until May 1959, when Blessed Pope John XXIII elevated it to the rank of a Minor Basilica. It was made a cardinalitial title by Pope Paul VI in February 1965, with Ángel Herrera Oria as the first titular. The present titular priest is Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja S.J., appointed in 1994.
The parish has been adminstered by the Congregation of Missionary Sons of the Sacred Immaculate Heart of Mary, usually known as the Claretians after the founder St Anthony Mary Claret.
The plan of the church is quite complex. The basic unit is a Greek cross, with the dome at its centre, inserted into a circle of lower elevation. The midpoints of the façades of the ends of the cross touch the circumference of the circle. The nave arm of the cross is taken to the entrance by an extension of lower elevation (converting the cross from Greek to Latin). Between the arms of the cross, on the other side of the circumference of the circle, are four side chapels with an octagonal plan and having one tiny dome each on their flat roofs. The presbytery extends for a short distance at a lower level from the end of its cross arm, to meet a five-sided apse which is surrounded by an ambulatory. A glance at the aerial photos on the external link may help to elucidate this.
The entrance façade and the lower, first storey exterior walls are as originally designed by Brasini. The entrance is through a Doric propylaeum in white travertine limestone with a strongly bowed frontage and supporting a triangular pediment. There are six columns in the round, and the central pair with the corresponding section of entablature and pediment are recessed. This recessed section of pediment bears a dedicatory inscription and a Papal coat-of-arms. The pediment as a whole is oversized, and the outer corners (rather bizarrely) are brought forward and supported by another pair of columns. If you go to the other side of the piazza, you will see the second storey of the church rising above the propylaeum, in red brick. Each gable end of the cross has the same style, comprising an arched window breaking into a blank triangular pediment and with four shallow rectangular brick pilasters decorating the wall below. The short drum of the dome is behind, with a wire guard fence around its edge. The shallow octagonal saucer dome is not visible from ground level.
The two sides of the church are identical in design. The side chapels are embellished with more Doric pillars in the round (the exterior of the church has twenty-eight of these in total), which support protruding cornices. The chapels nearest the entrance also have an aggressive sloping buttress each. In between the side chapels the curving brick wall of the main body of the church can be seen, decorated with shallow rectangular Doric pilasters in travertine supporting a stone architrave. The frieze above is in brick, and the cornice in stone again. The gable end of the second-storey cross above was to have the same sort of design, instead of being in brick.
The space has the shape of a Greek cross inscribed in a circle, with a large narthex inside the entrance and the four side chapels being separate units. The chapels on the right are dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament and St Joseph, while those on the left are to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Our Lady of Pompeii (after a shrine near the famous ancient Roman city). This last chapel has some of Brasini's original architectural sketches, including the four colossal statues of the Evangelists proposed on the ends of the Greek cross outside. Over the main altar is a mosaic of Our Lady displaying her Immaculate Heart and being venerated by two life-sized angels in marble.
In the baptistery, which is just inside the entrance on the left, there are modern paintings by the Armenian artist Gregorio Sciltian (1900-1985). In the crypt is another series of works by Fulgenzio Martinez depicting New Testament scenes.
The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the Saturday following the second Sunday after Pentecost. It is the last festal celebration in the Paschal cycle. The feast of St Anthony Mary Claret is celebrated on 24 October.
(Warning -the parish website may damage your PC.)