San Filippo Neri in Eurosia is a mid 20th century parish and titular church at Via delle Sette Chiese 103, in the suburb of Garbatella which is part of the Ostiense quarter. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.
The dedication is to St Philip Neri.
La Chiesoletta Edit
The first church to be built in Garbatella was Santi Isidoro ed Eurosia, which was erected in 1818 when the locality was entirely rural. The patron was Nicola Maria De Nicolai, a priest and local landowner who built it for the benefit of the workers on his estate. The site was on the pilgrimage route between San Sebastiano and San Paolo fuori le Mura, the Via delle Sette Chiese (named after the Seven Basilicas -"Seven Churches"- not any local churches), so pilgrims would also drop in.
The privately owned church was purchased by the noted Oratorian priest Generoso Calenzio in 1889, who restored it. This was the beginning of the presence of the Oratorians in Garbatella. St Philip, their founder, was very interested in promoting the Seven Churches Walk and so frequented the locality -this accounts for their interest in the area, and the dedication of the church.
In 1915, Mgr Calenzio died and left the property to the Holy See. There were still very few people living locally, so the bequest was renounced and reverted to the family. However, this proved to be a mistake because suburban development started within ten years. In 1924, the Oratorians purchased the church and established it as the first Mass centre for the new suburb.
New church Edit
The church was nicknamed La Chiesoletta because of its size. As the local population increased it became much too small and, in 1952, a new church of San Filippo Neri was begun next door to the east, at number 103. Simultaneously a full parish was set up. Completion of the church was in 1956.
The project was funded by American benefactors, Thomas and Irene Bradley of New York, who made a large donation to Pope Pius XII for his free disposal. The future Blessed Pope Paul VI advised him to pass the funds on to the Oratorians for them to build a church and school. The latter is the Istituto Cesare Baronio, at Via delle Sette Chiese 109. The American couple were honoured by having their portraits included in the apse fresco of the new church.
The Oratorians remain in charge of both churches. However, and oddly, another large parish church is very close by. This is San Francesco Saverio alla Garbatella.
The parish church was made titular as a diaconate in 1965, and the present cardinal deacon is Attilio Nicora.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church was designed by Pier Luigi Maruffi, in a derivative and simplified neo-Romanesque style which lacks charisma. The plan is traditionally basilical, with a central nave of seven bays having side aisles. There follows a sanctuary of a single bay, with a semi-circular apse. The aisles are extended to provide a pair of side chapels flanking the sanctuary bay.
The roofs are mostly all flat, with separate levels for the central nave, aisles and sanctuary which is slightly lower than the nave. However, the external apse has a semi-dome which is lower than the sanctuary roof and is in metal sheeting.
The exterior walls are overall in red brick, with some architectural details in travertine limestone. The left hand side frontage has a sports ground adjacent and so is easily viewable. The aisle wall here is blank brickwork, with the seven bays separated by blind brick pilasters and each bay having a small round window. The chapel at the end of the aisle has a lunette window. Above, the central nave side wall also has pilasters as well as seven rectangular windows.
The second bay in the left hand aisle wall is occupied by a little segmental apse, which is the chapel of St Philip Neri. The fifth bay has a rectangular annexe which houses the church organ.
The right hand side frontage is occupied by the parish centre and ancillary accommodation, which is a flat-roofed block lower than the aisle and wrapping round the back of the church where the sacristies are located.
To the right of the façade, the street frontage of this ancillary block bears a mural showing St Philip Neri at this location with pilgrims. In his day the locality was entirely treeless open country, and the city is shown in the background.
Behind the right hand half of this mural is the tall square red brick tower campanile, with a large stone-framed vertical rectangular aperture on each face. Each aperture is divided into two sound-holes by a horizontal beam. The tower has a slightly projecting cornice and a flat top.
The entrance façade is made up entirely of horizontal and vertical elements, with no curves. A monumental attached entrance loggia is approached by a flight of stairs, and has six brick piers with stone plinths but without capitals supporting a frieze, projecting cornice and flat roof. On the frieze is an inscription which is (unusually for Rome) in Italian: Venite a me voi tutti che siete affaticati ed oppressi ed io vi restorero ("Come to me, all you who labour and are oppressed and I will restore you").
Above this, the aisle ends are simple horizontal rectangles in blank brickwork and the nave frontage is an enormous brick rectangle containing an octagonal window with a stone frame and mullions making up a pattern of tesselated arches with a cross superimposed. This window is in a recessed panel in the brickwork, and two panels of the same size flank it so as to give the impression of four brick pilasters. The roofline has a stone frieze and projecting cornice like the loggia, and the dedicatory inscription and date that it bears are in Latin: D. O. M. in honorem S. Philippi Neri AD MCMLII. There is a central ball and cross finial.
Three entrances give access to the church, the central one being larger.
The nave has aisles, separated by arcades having grey granite Doric columns with square imposts. A molded floating cornice runs along each side wall above the arches, with rectangular windows above it in turn.
The interior walls are in beige, with architectural details tricked out in white. The archivolts of the arcade arches each have five slightly sunken rectangular panels, with the frames in white. The aisles have blind arcades springing from Doric pilasters, with each arch containing a round window.
The concrete central nave ceiling is coffered in squares and rectangles in rows, while the aisle ceilings have transverse beams.
There is a good organ, which came from the German College in the Vatican and which is housed in a little annexe off the left hand side aisle.
The counterfaçade has a tablet commemorating the laying of the foundation stone in 1951 by Cardinal Clemente Micara. The American donors, Thomas and Irene Bradley, are honoured. The heraldic shield is of Pope Pius XII, also mentioned.
The sanctuary has an enormous tall triumphal arch, which has no imposts or decorative features but is the near edge of a barrel vault. There is a cantoria or floating balcony in each side, above which is a row of four vertical slit windows.
The windowless wall of the apse bears a notable and very large fresco of 1977 by Amadeo Angilella, which is in two parts. The upper scene, in the conch, depicts Our Lady Mater Ecclesiae enthroned, with two scenes featuring St Philip Neri. On the left he is in ecstasy, and on the right he is attending to sick people in the company of SS Camillus de Lellis and Charles Borromeo. The main lower scene depicts an allegory of the history of the Congregation of the Oratory, and many of the famous people associated with it. Shown are Cardinals Francesco Maria Tarugi and Ugo Poletti, the musician Palestrina and King Henry IV of France. An angel is presenting a model of the church to Blessed Pope Paul VI and the two American benefactors, Thomas and Irene Bradley.
Side chapels Edit
In the left aisle is a little apsidal shrine containing a life-sized venerated statue in fibreglass of St Philip Neri. The apse wall is painted to give a context of the saint in ecstasy while saying a private Mass; two witnesses are shown looking round a door. However the statue is all in white -which rather spoils the artistic effect.
The apse chapel is flanked depictions of Cardinal Caesar Baronius (who administered the Oratory after St Philip's death) and Blessed John Henry Newman (the English Oratorian cardinal recently beatified).
The sanctuary side chapels are entered through arches at the ends of the aisles. Over each arch is a ventilation grille in elongated hexagons, with a chi-rho symbol in the centre.
The right hand one is dedicated to Our Lady, and has a scarlet panel over its entrance arch bearing a gilded relief of The Dove of the Holy Spirit. The altarpiece is a venerated icon of Our Lady as a young woman, which has been given a jewelled crown.
The left hand aisle chapel houses the Blessed Sacrament. Its entrance arch is filled with a very attractive door-screen in stained glass, showing the monogram of the Name of Jesus (IHS) with a vine. The altarpiece is a picture of the Sacred Heart. There are two stained glass windows, one depicting The Baptism of Christ and the other, The Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:00, 9:00, 18:00 (18:30 in summer);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 18:00 (18:30 in summer).
The parish maintains the subsidiary public chapel of Santa Maria Assunta ai Palazzoni.