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San Lorenzo da Brindisi del Collegio dei Cappuccini is a later 20th century college church, remodelled in the 21st century. The location is on the Grande Raccordo Anulare -Circonvallazione Occidentale 6850, which is in the La Pisana suburban zone.
The college as a whole is dedicated to St Lawrence of Brindisi -the Collegio Internazionale San Lorenzo da Brindisi.
The edifice was originally intended to be a fully-fledged church but, in fact, was not formally consecrated after it was finished in 1968. The Diocese still does not list it as a place of public cult.
However, after a drastic remodelling a formal consecration was performed in 2012.
The Friars Minor Capuchin had had their old headquarters at Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini, but built a new Generalate at San Lorenzo da Brindisi in the rione Ludovisi in 1911. This was also the permanent home of a new house of studies, the Collegio di San Lorenzo da Brindisi, which had been founded in 1908.
The decision to move the college to a green-field site was taken in 1962, and the new college complex was opened in 1968. The designing architect was Attilio Lapadula, assisted in the engineering by Leonardo Bazzoli.
The size and layout of the chapel was governed by the expectation that it was destined to be a parish church for a new suburban area -San Lorenzo da Brindisi alla Pisana. However the plan was dropped before completion, which was fortunate since the suburban development did not take place. Also, modern parish complexes in Roman suburbs invariably include social and sports facilities which would have been difficult to reconcile with the ambience of the college.
Whatever, the edifice was not formally consecrated which meant that it was left simply as a private chapel -albeit one of the biggest in Rome.
The chapel was hopelessly oversized from the beginning, and the situation was worsened by the decline in religious vocations in the last quarter of the 20th century.
The college as an institution does not now function house of studies with a formally appointed faculty, and instead is primarily a hall of residence for students (not all of the Capuchin Order) who study at other Church educational institutions in Rome. This situation is ameliorated by the presence here of the Order's central library, museum, archives and history department. (English speakers might be confused by the Italian word collegio. It has wider meanings than "college" in English, and one of them is actually "student hall of residence.)
After problems with the chapel's structural integrity arose at the end of the century, a complete re-modelling was undertaken and completed in 2012. The architect was Paolo Marciani, who converted the enormous void of the chapel into a series of smaller liturgical and spiritual spaces including, in effect, a completely new place of worship which the Capuchins call La chiesa dentro la chiesa ("the church within the church").
The liturgical furniture was provided by the firm of Pietra Liturgica, and the mosaic work was by Fr Ivan Marco Rupnik of the Centro Aletti.
The formal consecration was on 25 March of that year.
Layout and fabric Edit
The 2012 remodelling has not changed the exterior aspect of the church very much. It is a very large single-unit edifice on a rectangular plan, with incurved side walls. The fabric consists of a reinforced concrete frame, infilled with pink brick.
The edifice has sixteen bays, as you can see from the side walls each of which display the outer edges of fifteen slab piers supporting the roof. These piers are flanked by narrow window strips, and further window strips run under the side rooflines. The medial vertical line of each side wall is also occupied by a window strip.
Inside, the piers are matched by sixteen free-standing cylindrical concrete columns on each side also providing support.
The massive roof is impressive, in grey anodised metal (it was copper before 2012). It has two longitudinal pitches, curving gently upwards from almost flat zones over the entrance and altar ends. These pitches meet at a ridge-line halfway down the church, but the central three-fifths of the back pitch continues forwards as a dormer to cover a massive longitudinal rectangular window. The fenestration of this is incurved, and the roof edge above features two slightly curved concrete beams forming a very thin lenticule.
On the major axis just behind the entrance is a little circular umbrella canopy on struts, covering a skylight.
The tall and dominating campanile is a free-standing tower by the near left hand corner of the church. It is a simple white concrete cylinder, sporting four equally spaced vertical concrete piers which protrude. These piers continue up to bound the bell-chamber, which is otherwise open, and support a flat circular cap.
The focus of the college is the circular piazza to the left of the church, which is paved in dull red with white lines giving a wheel pattern. In the centre is a circular fountain featuring a very solid double cross sculpture in varnished wood beams.
Before the church's remodelling, there were three large rectangular portals framed in concrete in the middle three bays of the church in the left hand side. The bay next to the nearest of these also had a tall double vertical rectangular window. The portals were the main entrance to the church for the college, but the remodelling changed them into windows and the window into a door. The latter now leads into the crypt.
The monumental façade features blank brick walls flanking a portal running for the entire height of the church here. This is approached by a path leading to a wide ramp, both paved in dull red with a fish-scale pattern in white. The path has a bronze statue of St Lawrence of Brindisi on the left hand side.
The side walls, which curve outwards here, are continued past the frontage to support an extension of the roof which thus creates an enormous but shallow open atrium. The edge of the roof is in the form of a lenticule framed by two curved beams in white.
The ramp did not exist before 2012, and was made necessary by the insertion of a ground-level crypt inside the church.
The 2012 remodelling created several distinct structures within the void of the former interior, leaving a lot of dead space over them. Below them is a crypt area, created in 2012 by the insertion of an internal floor on which the main structures stand.
Inside the old church entrance is what the friars call a "liturgical aula" -they mean a narthex. This is a three-quarter circle in front of the new church entrance, flanked by a pair of ample sacristies tucked into the near corners of the edifice. The narthex area continues diagonally either side of the new church frontage.
The new church is on an elliptical plan along the major axis, and can accommodate about 250 worshippers. Attached to its far end is the smaller circular Blessed Sacrament chapel (the ellipse of the church in the plan takes a bite out of the circle). Beyond this in turn are two meeting rooms tucked into the far corners of the edifice, and a far entrance from the college block attached to the back of the edifice.
The circular narthex has a low flat roof in pale varnished pinewood, with a very large circular skylight having clear fenestration. The central circular pane has the emblem of the Franciscans.
The floor is in a creamy-white stone-based composition, and inlaid in it as a circle is the motto Amor Christ congregavit nos in unum ("The love of Christ has brought us together as one").
The frontage of the new church shows its structure, described below. The single entrance has a square wooden frame, and the two doors have a polychrome depiction of The Annunciation by Fr Marko Rupnik SJ. His style is immediately recognisable.
Structure of church and chapel Edit
The church and chapel have the same sort of structure, although the former is a hemi-ellipsoid and the latter a hemisphere into which the end of the former bites. Each is made entirely of unvarnished wood. Curved vertical ribs form the skeleton, and these are joined by horizontal planks. These are close-fitted lower down, but higher up are separated by gaps. Both church and chapel have a skylight, the former's being elliptical and the latter circular.
Church interior Edit
The interior of the church includes the lower parts of six of the concrete columns of the larger edifice on each side. To the right is a row of three large almost square windows at floor level, but to the left the central one is replaced by a recess containing an icon of Our Lady. The near curves of the side walls each has access to a little private worshipping area, and a door to the far left leads to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel which is actually behind the sanctuary.
The skylight here contains a depiction of the Dove of the Holy Spirit.
The seating for the congregation is arranged in concentric ellipses, being made up of curved benches. These surround a central elliptical floor area in the same style as that of the narthex, except here the mosaic inlays depict animals and plants including lots of fishes.
The altar occupies a circular platform at the far end of this floor area, raised on two steps. A much smaller circular platform buds off the second step to the left, and this bears the ambo or pulpit. The first step melds into a lower raised platform occupying the far end of the church's ellipse.
The altar is square in plan, and is a massive pure white limestone block. Each side bears a gilded metal cross with curved arms and a small enamelled icon in the centre. The matching ambo bears an inlaid depiction of a tree. To the right of the altar are three lampstands in the form of three columns of the same white stone, of differing heights and with gilded oil-lamps.
The large mosaic in the far end of the church is by Rupnik. It has three scenes. The middle one depicts Christ Pantocrator, and the right hand one depicts Christ Sending the Disciples. Below the central depiction is shown a pair of discarded purses, and these allude to the right hand description (Christ's admonition was "Take no purse"). To the left is a very interesting depiction of The Burning Bush, illustrating an ancient Christian interpretation that the Bush at Sinai was a prophecy of Our Lady. Moses is shown veiled and with his sandals off. However in the Bible the veil comes later, after the Exodus when Moses received the Law on Sinai.
Blessed Sacrament Chapel Edit
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel has two side doors. The interior space faces in the opposite direction to that in the main church and at the far end the apse of the main church protrudes. Here is the tabernacle. It is in the form of a tall, narrow gilded metal cupboard standing on the floor, and having inside a depiction of the Mandylion. The inside top of the cupboard is a shelf on which the Blessed Sacrament can be exposed.
"Pietra Liturgica" web-page (This went offline in October 2016)