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San Benedetto Giuseppe Labre a Torraccia is a late 20th century parish church at Via Donato Menichella 125, in the new suburb of Torraccia, part of the San Basilio quarter south-east of the junction between the Via Nomentana and the Circonvallazione Orientale.
The dedication is to St Benedict Joseph Labre, who is a patron of homeless and derelict people.
The parish was erected in 1989, in response to the laying out of this very self-contained new neighbourhood. Its first Mass was actually held in an arcade facing onto the Piazza Giorgio Ambrosini, a monumental layout which was the first part of the suburb to be developed (it is actually impressive architecturally, and is in the western part of the suburb). Thereupon a series of unsuitable premises were then used as Mass centres, beginning with shops and ending with a prefab on the site of the proposed new church.
The permanent church was begun in 1995, and consecrated in 1997. The architectural firm responsible is given as Molfetta.
Layout and fabric Edit
The plan is irregular, with the church itself having three distinct structural elements. Firstly there is a nave on the plan of an irregular quadrilateral, having no axis of symmetry but approximating to a trapezoid with the shortest length at the sanctuary end. Secondly comes the sanctuary, another irregular quadrilateral with its longest side abutting the nave. Finally, along the right hand side of the nave is a narrow annexe which is approximately rectangular but has the side flanking the entrance stepped back in two right angles. This annexe contains the ferial chapel.
A square tower campanile is located at the far right hand corner of the annexe, and is connected to the sanctuary by a large and high enclosed stairwell. It has a passage passing underneath it.
Attached to the right hand of the campanile is the parish accommodation, on the plan of a row of four rectangles. In front of this is an open-air theatre or assembly court.
The structure in in reinforced concrete, with infill walls in pink brick. The roofs are in laminated wood.
The nave is dominated by its roof. From a relatively low pink brick side wall to the left, it sweeps up to the right in a very steep pitch (about 45 degrees) containing a slight incurve which is described as hyperbolic. The corner to the left of the main entrance has an incut square in its plan, matched by a smaller square incut in the roof, and the roof here forms a canopy over a side entrance.
The roof covering is a dark grey composition (hopefully watertight in the long term).
The sanctuary has an almost flat roof, of a height midway up the curve of the nave roof and with a slight backwards pitch. This means that it has a triangular wall-section above the latter on the left hand side, which is mostly taken up by a triangular window.
The walls of the sanctuary are formed of enormous slabs in concrete embellished with brickwork, detached from each other. The back wall behind the altar is the largest. Five narrow slabs occupy the diagonally set left hand side, the first being parallel to the back wall and the others placed at an increasing angle to it. There are window slits below the slabs. The right hand side has three of these slabs, parallel to the back wall and again with monumental window slits in between.
Ferial chapel Edit
The annexe containing the ferial chapel consists of three long, narrow units in parallel, the frontages set back in stages from the nave façade and the roofs also lower in stages. The three roofs have single pitches echoing the main nave roof. The chapel itself is in the left hand unit.
The concrete-framed tower campanile is, as mentioned, over a large rectangular passage-portal which takes up its first storey. The tower is on a square plan, and has in its second storey an enclosed corridor leading from the church to the parish offices. There are windows for this in the near and far sides. Above, the near and far sides are in pink brick as far as the bell-chamber which has a wide rectangular sound-hole in these two sides. These are framed in wide concrete slabs above and below The other two sides each have a smaller round-headed sound-hole.
There is a spirelet formed of a stack of cubes of diminishing size, the bottom two black and the top two white. It is crowned by a cross finial.
The side of the tower facing the sanctuary has attached to it a large enclosed stairwell in white, with a single-pitched roof. This looms prominently over the end of the ferial chapel annexe. It contains stairs from the church into the tower, and to the elevated corridor leading to the parish offices.
Parish offices Edit
The parish offices are attached to the right hand side of the campanile, as mentioned. They are accessed via a set of stairs to the right of the church façade, leading to an elevated pavement which also runs under the tower. The four rectangular flat-roofed units are separated by concrete slab-piers and beams, and have staggered frontages.
In front of the parish offices is an open-air meeting area with stone seating down the far side resembling an ancient theatre (but not curved).
The façade is dominated by the sweeping curve of the roof, with a deep barge-board in dull red. A wall in pink brick starts from the far left hand side, where it almost touches the lower end of the roof curve. It has a transverse section which is about a third of the width of the façade, and then steps back in four equal steps so as to create an enormous void under the roof. The line of the top of the wall is horizontal, and above it the façade is entirely in glass in large rectangular panes. This fenestration is also stepped, but out of sync so that its external corners are over the internal corners of the wall.
The actual entrance faces over a patio accessed by a flight of steps. It is a flat-roofed kiosk in dull red, inserted in between the stepped wall to the left and a section of longitudinal wall at the edge of the façade to the right, and its frontage is taken up by six glass doors. The lintel now has the name of the parish on it.
The right hand screen wall is of the same height as the left hand wall, and supports a white concrete slab which in turn supports the very deep eaves of the right hand side edge of the roof.
The three stepped-back ferial chapel annexe frontages are in a similar style, with pink brick walls of the same height topped by glass.
The main space is dominated by the enormous laminated and stained pine roof rafters, curving up from left to right from a low side wall in pink brick. The roof in between these has closely fitted planking, running longitudinally.
The nave floor is laid in an attractive polychrome tile pattern -small red squares, yellow rectangles and large light grey squares.
Standing in the far left hand corner of the nave is a very good wooden statue of Our Lady while pregnant. This is by Ferdinando Perathoner.
Ferial chapel Edit
The arrangements for the ferial chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is housed, are unusual. The chapel has a glass screen wall separating it from the nave, and over it is a cantoria or elevated choir area. This is supported on metal piers. Above the choir is a large void which is a continuation of the main nave space.
The floor of the cantoria, and hence the ceiling of the chapel, has a transverse S-curve so that the back row of the choir is elevated above the front row.
The chapel contains what looks like a 19th century oil painting of the patron saint, St Benedict Joseph Labre.
The sanctuary is separated from the nave by a white wall in which is a wide trapezoidal portal with a sloping top edge. The walls here are white as well.
The paving is in limestone from Apricena. The floor is raised on three steps, and the free-standing altar is on its own wide platform. The baptismal font is to the right, and over it is a stained glass window in golden monochrome glass depicting The Baptism of Jesus by Americo Mazzotta.
The seating for the ministers is against the back wall, elevated on a further five steps, with further seating for a choir or for VIPs to the left. The backs of the ministerial seats are in rectangular slabs of stone of different sizes, and on the wall above these is a fresco in orange monochrome by Mazzotta again. It shows St Benedict Joseph Labre with his fellow Roman beggars, and an idealized vista of the city in the background.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:00, 18:30 (not summer, except Saturdays);
Sundays and Solemnities 9:00, 10:30, 12:00 (not summer), 18:30.