San Felice da Cantalice a Centocelle is a mid 20th century parish, titular and conventual church at Piazza San Felice da Cantalice 20, which is in the south-west part of the suburb of Centocelle in the Prenestino-Centocelle quarter. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.
The dedication is to St Felix of Cantalice.
The parish was erected in 1935, and immediately put under the administration of the Friars Minor Capuchin. The church, which was begun in 1934, was completed structurally in the following year. It was designed by the partnership of Mario Paniconi and Giulio Pediconi.
The site chosen was at the southern node of the street layout of this repulsively overcrowded suburb of closely-packed apartment blocks.
The patron saint appropriately chosen for the new church, St Felix of Cantalice, was the first Capuchin to be canonized, in 1712. He was from Cantalice in Apulia, and was a lay-brother at the friary of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini at Rome from 1547 until his death in 1587. He was a friend of SS Philip Neri and Charles Borromeo, loved the company of children and was nicknamed Deogratias from his habit of saying "Thanks be to God" all the time.
The church was finally consecrated in 1941. There was a restoration of the sanctuary in 1958, when the floor was raised and a new high altar provided.
The church made titular in 1969. The present cardinal priest is Luis Antonio Tagle.
Layout and fabric Edit
The design is in a derivative neo-Romanesque style influenced by Modernism, typical for Roman churches at the time. This combination of Modernist principles with a late 19th century devotion to the mediaeval basilical layout was to become very tired in the Fifties, leading to too many second-rate designs, but was still quite exciting in the decade that the church was built.
The plan is based on a Latin cross. After an impressive portico, there is an entrance bay flanked by a pair of rotunda chapels and then a five-bay central nave with side aisles. Then comes a transept, just slightly wider than the nave with its aisles. Finally there is a large semicircular apse intended as the sanctuary.
The church is part of a complex including a school, meeting halls and a convent for the friars in charge.
The side walls have cream-coloured panels with string courses in red and vertical rectangular windows, but the spectacular entrance portico is all in red brick. The brick was added after the completion of the fabric, as the church was initially all in white render externally.
The roofs are all flat, except that of the entrance porch which is gabled with a double pitch. The roofs of the central nave and the two chapels flanking the entrance bay are at a lower level than that of the transept and apse, and those of the side aisles and the entrance bay are lower still. This allows for a window strip below the counterfaçade end of the central nave roof.
There is a monumental open entrance porch occupying almost the entire frontage, with an enormous central arch running up into a gable and two on either side, one above the other and the top ones shorter. These arches are completely undecorated, and lack imposts.
The zones of the frontage containing these arches are brought forward slightly, and the tops of these zones have short string courses which connect to the gable to give the impression of a pediment broken by the central arch. Round the outer corner on each side, there is another arch as tall as the two flanking pairs together.
Within this portico, the actual entrance wall of the church is a blank wall. There are three entrance doors, the central one larger and all with simple doorcases. Above the main entrance is a simple dedicatory inscription, and above this is a vast mural of St Felix in ecstasy, accurately depicted with a beard, brown habit and bare feet (the Capuchins prohibited sandals in his day). Over his left shoulder is a sack for the contributions to the upkeep of the friary which he begged from the citizens while walking the streets. The portico vault above has a longitudinal barrel-vault in the central section and two transverse ones in the side sections, and is painted blue.
The ends of the aisles either side of the portico are also in red brick, and have chamfered corners each bearing a vertical set of large vertically rectangular stained glass windows. There is a little campanile or bellcote, in the form of a flat-roofed kiosk with two bells in a pair of open rectangular housings, over the roofline of the left hand aisle.
On entering, you find yourself in an entrance bay. There is an enclosed rotunda chapel on each side, the right hand one being the baptistery. The font is carved out of a block of tufa, with an inscription Sume fidem ("receive faith"). Over the entrance bay is the organ gallery, supported by a pair of columns encased in monochrome yellow tiling so that they look as if they are of yellow marble. These columns have no capitals. Above the organ is a strip of window containing stained glass in brightly coloured abstract patterns.
The main nave has five bays. The aisles do not have arcades, but a horizontal trabeation in grey stone, supported by simple round yellow marble columns without capitals or imposts like those supporting the organ. Above the trabeation are two little square windows in each bay of the low upper central nave walls. The far column on the left hand side has an interesting pulpit or ambo, a semi-cylinder in white suspended on the column with a matching semi-circular soundboard above it.
The ceiling is flat, with transverse concrete ribs giving a washboard effect.
The outer zone of each aisle is divided into five side chapels by means of screen walls in concrete. Some of these chapels were never fitted out properly, but contain devotional statuary. Each has a large rectangular window with brightly coloured semi-abstract stained glass, including a set with the theme The Canticle of Creation.
The church also contains a series of polychrome ceramic tiles representing various devotional and Biblical subjects.
In contrast to the nave, which has no arches anywhere, the ends of the transept are entered through a pair of large undecorated arches without imposts.
These ends are also chapels. The one dedicated to St Francis has a relief of the Vision to St Francis of Christ with Angels by Fr Ugolino da Belluno, a Capuchin.
The apse is double. The inner one is semicircular, and this is structural, but it has a large void behind the altar with the top edge supported by two concrete columns . The flat wall behind these has a mosaic of the Madonna and Child with St Felix.
The curved walls of the apse either side of the void have reliefs in coloured concrete by Fr Ugolino. Concrete mixes in different colours were laid on the wall in turn, and the artist used chisels to cut away into the different layers to obtain the multi-coloured reliefs. These were completed in 1970.
The flat ceiling has a large semi-circular skylight, edged in three steps.
The old high altar dates from 1958, and is in red marble.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:00, 8:30, 18:00 (19:00 in summer);
Sundays and Solemnities 7:00, 9:30 (9:00 in summer), 11:00, 18:00 (19:00 in summer).
As a conventual church, the Divine Office is celebrated here:
Lauds 7:00, Vespers 16:15 daily.
Rosary is said 17:30 daily.
There is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on the first Thursday of the month at 19:00, and the following Friday at 17:00.
Convent chapels Edit
Mass is celebrated in the private chapels of three local convents, and these Masses are now being publicly advertised.
Benedictine Sisters of Charity, Via Tor de' Schiavi 116:
Weekdays 7:00, Sundays 10:30 (summer 9:30).
Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Via Tor de' Schiavi 150:
Weekdays 7:00, Sundays 8:00.
Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, Via dei Glicini 107:
Weekdays 6:45, Sundays 7:00, 11:00 (summer 9:30).