San Giuseppe Cottolengo is a later 20th century parish church at Viale di Valle Aurelia 62, in the suburb of Valle Aurelia just to the west of Vatican City. This is part of the Aurelio quarter.
The dedication is to St Giuseppe Benedetto Cottolengo. He was a priest of Turin who founded the Piccola Casa, a famous charity in Italy, and who died in 1842.
The remote origins of the parish lie with the Congregation of the Servants of Charity (Servi della Carità). This was founded by St Luigi Guanella at Como in 1886 and was formally constituted as a congregation of vowed religious in 1906, with a special interest in caring for poor sick and disabled people. A common nickname for it is Opera Don Guanella.
The first house of the Servi in Rome was opened in 1903, next to the Via Aurelia Antica at number 438. However, this was only a small establishment. St Luigi moved to Rome, and became a personal friend of Pope St Pius X who encouraged his work. As a result he was able to found the city's major cult centre of St Joseph at San Giuseppe al Trionfale, and began a much larger convent on an expansive neighbouring plot on the Via Aurelia. This is the present Casa San Giuseppe -see San Giuseppe dell’Opera Don Guanella.
Back then, the area was mostly rural but included brick kilns using an outcrop of clay to the west of the Janiculum. The workers in these were poorly provided for in religious matters, and in response St Giuseppe set up a mission for them in 1905. After his death in 1912, the Opera founded the little church of Santa Maria della Provvidenza a Valle Aurelia in 1917. This was only consecrated in 1921.
This church remained a mission centre run by the Opera until 1962, when a parish was finally erected. It worshipped here until a new church was provided. This was executed by Paolo Cercato, Franco Ceschi and Edgardo Tonca, and opened in 1979 as part of a social centre for the suburb. (There had also been a temporary chapel at Viale di Valle Aurelia 93).
The old church was kept on as a subsidiary Mass centre -mostly out of historical interest, since the two churches are within walking distance. The last brick-kiln had closed in 1960, and the old church is one of the few relics left of the locality's industrial past.
The parish was initially administered by the Opera, but they handed over to diocesan clergy in 2006.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church is part of a larger edifice, housing the parish office, clerical accommodation and social facilities. The site slopes from left down to the right, and this has been utilised to provide a crypt.
The church itself is on the plan of an irregular octagon, created by chamfering the corners of a square with the major axis on a diagonal. Three chamfers are of the same size, but the fourth at the entrance is wider.
This church unit is abutted on all sides by annexes and the two-storey ancillary wing, which runs off parallel to the major axis from the far right hand side. This wing has its bottom storey as the emergence of the crypt frontage at the bottom of the slope, and has a terrace in between the two storeys facing down the slope to the Via di Valle Aureila. The two rooflines of the storeys here have very deep eaves in white.
The ferial chapel is in a triangular annexe attached to the far left hand side of the church, and a confessional space to the near left hand side.
The flat roof, with a low parapet melding with the walls, covers the near half of the church and all the ancillary areas under one span. The parapet has horizontal metal railings painted in red.
The structure is in reinforced concrete, rendered in white around the entrance (where the walls are low) but in a puce colour round the back, where the complex faces the Via Giuseppe Bonaccorsi.
The roof area of the church itself is divided into two zones by the transverse diagonal. The trapezoidal area nearest the entrance is lower, and is part of the overall main roof. It has a long skylight of triangular cross-section, raised on two low walls sitting on the roof and running along the major axis. The other zone, the altar side, is higher by the height of the walls just mentioned. The skylight runs on to occupy the entire major axis, and another identical skylight strip occupies the top of the low wall running along the transverse diagonal and dividing the two roof zones.
To get to the entrance, until 2016one has to take a path through a scruffy piece of undeveloped land. However ,in that year this plot was being developed and hopefully the approach will be better laid out.
The main entrance access path leads to a short elevated walkway with low side walls in white concrete topped by the red metal railings which are a feature of the church's exterior design.. This leads to a small patio in front of the main entrance, which is a pavilion taller than the church created from two enormous rectangular white concrete slabs, set diagonally and sloping back from the door. The door itself is recessed, and is topped by a large glass window with red metal railing transoms. This window occupies the entire height of the pavilion between the slabs, being topped by a red metal gable fitting between the upper corners of the latter.
The pavilion is flanked by an internal loggia on each side, topped by deep white roof eaves which are unsupported. The frontage to the right belongs to the church and is transverse, but the one on the left belongs to an ancillary area and comes out at an angle.
The interior is dominated by the concrete roof. This has two skylight strips in the form of a cross, one on the major axis and one on the transverse axis. These strips are bounded by deep, downwardly hanging concrete beams which are left in a raw state. The wall and ceiling surfaces are in white, with some wall surfaces in a contrasting puce -beyond the transverse skylight strip, the ceiling is higher than in front of it.
The sanctuary furnishings (altar, lectern or ambo and seating for ministers) is in a smooth, pale brown travertine limestone. The seating for the ministers, to the right in the sanctuary, has the back of the main chair as a triangular plaque on the wall above the seat.
Behind the altar, the far chamfered corner of the edifice is entirely taken up by a stained glass window which is simply made up of vertically rectangular glass panels in different colours. In front of this is the circular tabernacle, in bronze with stylised flames.
To the far left is the ferial chapel, with a polychrome relief sculpture of Our Lady as the altarpiece. This has an unusual surround, in the form of a burning bush. To the right is the baptistery, with a depiction of The Baptism of Christ -Christ's robe is in bright red, which catches the eye.
The terracotta Stations of the Cross by Tino Perrotta are one of the best modern versions in Rome.
A relief showing the patron saint is by Silvio Olivo.
According to the Diocese, the church is open 7:30 to 12:00 and 16:00 to 20:30.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:30 (8:00 June to August), 19:00 (19:30 June to August);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:30, 12:00 (not July, August), 19:00. (19:30 June to August).
Old parish website (Mass times are obsolete.)