San Barnaba is a mid 20th century parish church with a postal address at Piazza dei Geografi 15 in the Prenestino-Labicano quarter, near the Filarete metro station on the Via Casilina. The structural main entrance is on the Via Giovanni Maggi. Pictures of the church on WIkimedia Commons are here.
The dedication is to St Barnabas.
The parish was erected in 1932 by Pope Pius XI, and the dedication chosen for two reasons:
Firstly, it recalls the lost gate chapel of San Barnaba de Porta which used to stand outside the Porta Maggiore. Secondly, it commemorates the church of San Barnaba in Brescia. Here, in 1825, Bl Lodovico Pavoni founded a clerical congregation called the Sons of Mary Immaculate (Figli di Maria Immacolata or Pavoniani). The new parish was entrusted to them, and they requested the dedication.
Something went wrong as regards the recognition of the parish by the government authorities (Italian law requires this), because it only took place in 1955. The church was designed in a neo-Romanesque style by Tullio Rossi (one of his better late works), and completed in 1957.
Layout and fabric Edit
The plan is basilical, comprising a central nave with aisles of eight bays and a sanctuary of a single bay which is narrower than the central nave. This has a semi-circular apse of the same width and height. The side aisles are continued to flank the sanctuary.
A corridor range is attached to the right hand side aisle, leading from the façade to the substantial ancillary accommodation behind the church and incorporating a side entrance. Over the corridor to the right of the sanctuary is a tower campanile.
The church stands on a crypt.
The external walls are all in red brick, which for the left hand side aisle and the sanctuary apse are blank. The right hand corridor range faces over the piazza, and displays decorative patterning in the brickwork comprising shallow round-headed recesses in the form of a blind arcade. There are seven of these, each containing a rectangular window with a stone sill, and each pair of arches is separated by a thin vertical recessed strip in the brickwork. However the fifth bay contains a side entrance which is actually the church's main ingress. It has an arched portal accessed by a pair of longitudinal staircases meeting at a patio, the revetting wall of which contains a doorway into the crypt.
The central nave walls each display seven large vertical rectangular windows, one for each bay except for the nave entrance bay the wall of which is blank. These windows each have a semi-circular lunette recess in the brickwork above, and are separated by blank recessed panels of the same size. The windows and panels have between them the same thin recessed vertical strips as the blind arcade in the side wall below, and below them a horizontal rectangular recessed panel each (just above the aisle roofline).
The central nave roof is double-pitched and tiled, and the sanctuary has its own lower pitch. The apse roof is pitched in four sectors. The aisle roofs are flat, but the right hand range has a single tiled pitch.
The campanile is an unadorned square brick tower with a flat roof and two vertical rectangular sound holes in each face. Below each of these is a square recessed into the brickwork.
The main entrance façade faces onto a raised courtyard, separated from the street by a wall with a railed gate at the top of a flight of stairs.
There is an external loggia with a single-pitched tiled roof, which runs the entire width of the façade. In front of the central nave it has five rectangular portals separated by square white concrete piers which support a roofline entablature without an architrave. The frieze of this bears a dedicatory inscription: D. O. M. in honorem B. Barnabae Ap. The entablature runs along the entire roofline, but for the aisle frontages it is over simple brick walls containing side doors. Each side door has a recessed rectangular panel above it.
The second storey has a tall attic plinth which is a simple blank wall, running across the entire façade above the loggia roof and having horizontal rooflines for the aisles. It bears a central relief plaque showing the coat-of-arms of Pope Pius XII. The central nave frontage above the attic repeats the design of the central nave side walls. There are five vertical sets of recessed panels in the brickwork, separated by four recessed grooves. From bottom to top, each set has a rectangular panel, a taller rectangular panel and a semi-circular lunette. The outer and central larger rectangular panels are filled by stained glass windows.
There are eight bays to the nave, marked by arcades of arches supported by square piers clad in limestone and having tile imposts (no capitals). The arch archivolts are entirely undecorated.
The background colouring of the walls is a light grey. However, the central nave walls have panels echoing those in the brickwork on the exterior -that is, two rectangles and a lunette arranged vertically. These are painted in white. There is one set above each arch and another over each pair, and these differ in that the larger panels over the arches have stained glass windows. The larger panels over the piers bear frescoes, and these depict the Apostles and Evangelists as well as SS Paul, Barnabas, Lawrence and Sebastian.
The roof is open, boarded in longitudinal unpainted pine planks and having triangular trusses with ties.
There are four side chapels
The east wall of the nave, containing the triumphal arch leading into the sanctuary, is painted with a tessellated geometric design in light and mid brown, made up of triangles and quadrilaterals.
The sanctuary is raised on three steps, which have a semi-circular curve at the centre. They and the floor are in polished cream-coloured marble, as are the altar and lectern or ambo. The latter two are decorated with a cross-in-circle motif, in red on yellow.
There are two side chapel flanking the sanctuary bay entered by a pair of wide archways. Above each of these is a gallery of two arches and flush balconies.
The sanctuary wall apse is completely covered by a mosaic executed by Igino Cupelloni of 1966. The theme is The Apotheosis of St Barnabas, who is shown receiving grace from the Trinity (God the Father in the conch, Christ Crucified with Our Lady and St John near the top of the wall and the Dove of the Holy Spirit between the Crucifixion and the saint's head). Two side scenes are from the saint's career.
Flanking the depiction of the saint are crowds of the faithful. Prominent among these are five figures, which depict Pope St John XXIII, Bl Pope Paul VI, Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople, Cardinal Luigi Traglia and Michael Ramsey the archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican communion. These are described as the Nuovi Protagonisti della Chiesa, which is a rather sad witness to the unbridled optimism of the period especially as regards ecumenism. This was between the end of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, and 1971 which was the year which saw the beginning of the ordination of women in the Anglican Communion and hence the end of any realistic hopes of reconciliation between Anglicans and Roman Catholics or (especially) Orthodox.
The church is open, according to the Diocese:
6:30 to 11:30, 15:00 to18:15 (16:00 to 19:45 in spring and summer).
It is best to use the side entrance on the piazza, as the main entrance is sometimes not open apparently.
Mass is celebrated in the church:
Weekdays 7:00 (not July, August), 8:00, 9:00, 17:30 (19:00 Saturdays and during Daylight Saving Time);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 17:30, 19:00.
External Mass centres Edit
There are three private convent chapels which the parish is using as public Mass centres. They have no architectural identity or formal consecration:
Cappella delle Ancelle del Sacro Cuore. The convent chapel of the Sisters, Handmaids of the Sacred Heart is located at Via Marco Vincenzo Coronelli 43, north-east of the Villini metro station. The establishment is called the Instituto Lucia Noiret, and is also a school.
Mass is on Sundays and Solemnities at 8:30.
Cappella delle Ancelle dell’Amore Misericordioso. The convent chapel of the Sisters, Servants of Merciful Love is located at Via Casilina 323 near the Alessi metro station on the electric line to Giardinetti.
Mass is on Sundays and Solemnities at 7:00.
Suore di Nostra Signora di Namur. The convent chapel of the Sisters of Our Lady of Namur is located at Via Francesco Paciotti 21 which is just south of the Via Casilina near the Filarete metro station. They run a school here.
Mass is on Sundays and Solemnities at 9:30.