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San Paolo di Chartres

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San Paolo di Chartres is a later 20th century private convent chapel at at Via della Vignaccia 193 in the La Pisana suburban zone. This is a rather isolated location. A picture of the church on Wikimedia Commons is here.

The dedication is to St Paul the Apostle.

History Edit

The Hospitaller Sisters of St Paul of Chartres (Suore Ospedaliere di San Paolo -Chartres or SPC) were founded at Chartres in France in 1669. It started to become international in the 19th century, and received papal approval in 1861.

The original convent here seems to have been established in a fairly small house after 1949, when the congregation finally obtained formal approval from the Holy See. This edifice was massively extended in a project that was initiated in 1966, in order to provide a Generalate or headquarters for what was by then a large active congregation of sisters spread worldwide.

The new construction included a chapel, which is a stand-alone building except for the entrance where it is attached to the convent. It is an important work by the noted modernist church architect Silvio Galizia, and was finished in 1968.

Exterior Edit

The chapel has a very unusual plan, basically a stretched hexagon with an acute angle at the altar end, a rounded angle at the entrance (which joins onto the main building) and the two side slightly curved inwards.

The building material is undecorated shuttered concrete, inside and out.

The roof starts quite high above the entrance, swoops down along the major axis and then rises steeply to the acute angle above the altar. From the roadside gates one can glimpse the altar end of the building through the trees of the garden, looking like the looming prow of a ship. Between walls and roof there are thin strips of window, and also either side of the altar there is a vertical strip window from floor to roof, angled so as to throw light on the altar. The walls are stepped vertically to allow for these.

Interior Edit

The interior is dominated by large areas of concrete, with some colour offsetting the overall greyness being found in the dull red stone floor tiling.

This chapel has the oddity of being completed only two years before the liturgical reform of the Roman rite in 1970, when the majority of Catholic churches had their sanctuaries re-ordered to allow for Mass to be celebrated with the priest facing the congregation. (Despite common belief, this was not imposed as mandatory).

So, here the sanctuary was in the back angle and the altar was on a platform approached by three steps. The tabernacle is still here, and is an interesting bronze piece vaguely resembling a two-blade propeller. The altar was brought forward onto a one-step platform, and is a rough block of limestone on two other rough-cut blocks.

A wall crucifix with a bronze corpus is on the left, and a bronze statue of Our Lady in a matching position on the right.

External links Edit

Official diocesan web-page

Info.roma web-page

Congregation's website

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