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San Francesco di Sales alla Borgata Alessandrina

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San Francesco di Sales alla Borgata Alessandrina is a 21st century parish church at Viale Alessandrino 585, in the Alessandrino quarter which is to the east of Centocelle. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons have been deleted.

The dedication is to St Francis de Sales.

History Edit

The remote history of the parish lies with a foundation made in what was then open countryside by the Povere Figlie di Maria Santissima Incoronata Adoratrici Perpetue del Sacro Cuore di Gesù, to give them their full title.

This congregation, founded at Mantua in 1897 by Teresa Fardella De' Blasi, was devoted to helping poor people simultaneously with a prayer focus on the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and on Our Lady. This opened its Pia Casa di Sant'Antonio on the newly laid out Viale Alessandrino in 1928, at a time when the area was just being suburbanised and was still mostly open fields.

The first local inhabitants were refugees from the clearance of neighbourhoods in central Rome by the Fascists, mostly north of the Forum and west of the Campidoglio. These had no social services and many were destitute, so there was a serious problem with abandoned street children. The Pia Casa was a refuge for these as well as the suburb's first social centre, and grew to a large complex of buildings dominated by an imposing four-storey block. This is at Viale Alessandro 675.

A new church, Santa Teresa del Bambin Gesù alla Borgata Alessandrina, was built as part of the complex in 1932. Back then this was just a convent church, as the nearest parish was Santi Marcellino e Pietro ad Duas Lauros.

In 1954 the Pia Casa was joined by a new complex just to the north -number 695. This functioned as the Generalate (headquarters) of the Maria Santissima Incoronata sisters, as well as the noviciate. It is a separate massive four-storey block, containing a private chapel.

The parish was established in 1961, and put in the charge of the Oblates of St Francis de Sales (OSFS). They immediately began worship in the Pia Casa church, but lacked a parish centre until one was built in 1968.

The Pia Casa had to be closed in the same year, 1968, and the sisters confined themselves to their Generalate. The complex then became the Collegium Lateranense "San Giovanni XXIII", a seminary which is part of the Pontifical Lateran University. The parish was given five years of grace, but then had to move. So, in 1973 it began using the largest room at the centre as a temporary church in the expectation that a permanent church was to be built. Unfortunately, they had to wait some time.

The present church, an important modern design by the partnership of Lucrezio Carbonara, Paolo Dattero and Alfred Re, was finally completed in 2005.

The sisterhood were running a school at their Generalate which the Diocese still had listed in 2016, but it has no online presence. However, the parish is now using the Generalate's chapel as a public Mass centre.

The former convent and parish church of Santa Teresa is no longer open to the public, but functions as a seminary chapel.


Layout Edit

The plan of the church is based on a slightly irregular octagon, symmetrical on the major axis. It stands back from the street, making room for a car park, and stands on a patio which is actually the roof of a crypt. Since the site slopes from front to back, the presence of the crypt is more obvious at the altar end where it has windows at ground level.

The front diagonals of the octagon are occupied by covered passages, the left hand one of which leads to a side entrance and the right hand one to the lobby of the ferial (weekday) chapel which occupies the right hand longitudinal side of the octagon. The chapel itself is an approximately square edifice attached to the right, with a bowed (outwardly curved) wall to the far right.

The back diagonals of the octagon are occupied by a pair of right-angled spaces.

The ancillary social and parochial accommodation is in a large separate four-storey block at the far right. Where this impinges on the church, just to the right of the right-hand right-angled triangular unit mentioned, is a tall tower campanile.

Fabric Edit

The fabric is in white reinforced concrete, and are low at the sides and back.

The edifice is dominated by the spectacular roof, which is in anodised copper. This is not octagonal but heptagonal (seven-sided), since it has an angle over the entrance side of the octagon which forms an enormous canopy. The roof has three sections. A flat central sloping section runs from low down behind the altar, up a fairly steep slope to end at the angle over the entrance. Flanking this are two longitudinally curved sections, wrapping down to low at each side.

Façade Edit

The angle and curves of the roof create a spectacular sharks-mouth frontage, with a double curved roofline starting low on either side, and sweeping up to the point above the entrance. The teeth of the shark are created by having the near diagonal sides of the octagon entirely occupied by window panes above the covered passages either side of the entrance. Each side has seven vertical strips of square windows in blue glass, the strips stepping back and separated by thin piers in timber. There are seven of these strips on each side, the last pair being very low as the roof curves down to join the longitudinal side wall.

The entrance door is enclosed by monumental, triply nested rectangular frames in white concrete, with a strip of windows between each frame. The smallest frame has a dedicatory epigraph on the lintel -DOM in honore S. Francesco di Sales -23 Gen. 2005. Between the largest frame and the floating roof angle above is a row of three windows in white concrete frames, a horizontal rectangular one flaked by a pair of squares.

Campanile Edit

The detached campanile is made up from four white concrete piers. These are connected by four transverse bars in a square three times above the plinth, giving four open storeys. The bells are hung in four overhanging boxes at the top, the boxes having open sides and forming the plan of a cross. There is a wedge-shaped finial, and on the outer face of each bell-box is a bronze relief representation of one of the Evangelists.


The interior is an open octagonal space, with a spectacular roof of laminated and varnished wood having deep plank rafters. The junctions of the roof and walls are hidden by galleries with completely blank white panel frontages, and other wall surfaces are also in bright white.

Over the altar, on a white panel curving up and forwards, is a mosaic in the Byzantine style of Christ enthroned in glory. Icons in Byzantine style of Our Lady and St Francis de Sales are hanging on the walls flanking the sanctuary.

The baptismal font is at the top right, and the entrance to the ferial chapel to the right.

Liturgy Edit

Church Edit

Mass is celebrated:

Weekdays 18:30;

Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30 (not summer).

Maria Santissima Incoronata Edit

Mass is celebrated in the convent chapel:

Weekdays 7:20;

Sundays and Solemnities 7:30.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Parish website

Info.roma web-page

Beweb web-page

Infobuild web-page

Architectural article

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