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San Pio X is a mid 20th century parish and titular church with a postal address at Via Attilio Friggeri 87 in the Trionfale quarter, near the Balduina train station in the suburb of the same name. The main entrance is on the Piazza della Balduina. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.
The dedication is to Pope St Pius X.
The area only began to be developed as a suburb after the Second World War. In immediate response, a parish was set up in 1957 and construction of the church was begun in the same year. This was designed by Alberto Ressa, and completed in 1961. It and the piazza on which it stands constitute the focal point of the suburb.
The church was made titular in 1969, the title being San Pio X alla Balduina. The present cardinal priest is Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church in a modernist interpretation of the neo-Romanesque style, rather more boldly innovative than most other examples among Roman churches of the 1950's. Expectations of large congregations dictated the preservation of a traditional layout of a large nave and an attached sanctuary until the late 20th century.
Disgustingly, the church's piazza is a car park -and nothing but a car park. However most of the trees planted around the church when it was built have reached maturity, and these form a green oasis.
The main church building is set back and above street level, over a ground-level crypt used as an auditorium. An identical pair of flights of stairs flank the separate entrance to the latter, and combine in one wide flight over it to reach the church frontage.
The church has a single nave without aisles. First there is an entrance bay, flanked by two narrow external chambers containing side entrance lobbies.Then there are four bays in the main nave. The first three of these on either side have external side chapels, each of which is a separate structure distinct from its neighbours. There follows a sanctuary on a square plan, narrower and lower than the nave.
The fabric has a reinforced concrete frame, with infilled walls in pink brick. The bricks are carefully laid, with recessed horizontal mortar joints giving the brickwork a faintly striped aspect.
The roofs are in composition (not tiled), with a slight double pitch for the nave, a backwards sloping single pitch for the sanctuary and a matching slight double pitch for each of the side chapels.
The nave side walls each have three equidistant horizontal string courses in concrete slabs, the top and bottom ones of which bound four large rectangular windows. Each window has prominent mullions in a grid, dividing it up into eight vertical rectangular fenestrations, four by four. The grid design is also used for two very large windows taking up most of the side walls of the sanctuary.
The outer wall of each chapel has a double window strip at each corner, below the gable of its roof.
The two storeys of the entrance façade are structurally disjunctive, separated by a gap over which the second storey is cantilevered slightly so that both elements are in the same vertical plane.
The first storey is made up of blank brick walling, continuous with the frontages of a pair of side entrance lobbies attached to the entrance bay of the nave on each side. This storey topped by a very slight gable, which runs over the lobbies mentioned, and the concrete frame of the monumental entrance doorway reaches up into the point of this gable. There is no porch or canopy, but the actual doors of this entrance are recessed slightly and there is a sloping panel above the lintel which fills the gap between the lintel and the frame. The side doors are in simple concrete frames.
The second storey is also in blank brickwork, striped across by four bands of concrete slabs (the first one forms the base). It has four empty corbels formed by ends of structural concrete beams protruding above the nave door, and above this is an octagonal window recessed in a dished frame. The fenestration of this window is meant to recall a mediaeval rose window -but gives the impression of eight coffins with the narrow ends pointing at a central octagon.
Above the window in turn is a very large irregularly pentagonal opening just below the gabled roofline (which has the same angle of pitch as the entrance storey) with fourteen vertical stone pilasters giving a grille effect. This is the bell chamber, and the novel arrangement means that there is no campanile. (More modern churches have tended to retain a campanile, because in this church it is very noisy when the five bells are rung.)
The interior is in itself plain, but rich in modern works of religious art.
There is a single nave of four bays after the entrance vestibule, with chapels off each side of the first three bays. These are separate structures attached to the nave side walls and accessed via portals in the walls. Each portal has a slight angle to its upper edge (this obtuse gable angle is an overall design feature of the church). A narrow gap at the start of each chapel side wall gives access from one chapel to the next, and gives the false impression of a structural side aisle. The fourth bay has no chapels, but instead has foyers giving access to two chapels flanking the sanctuary. The nave opens into this pair of foyers via simple rectangular portals, without the angled upper edge.
Each bay has a large rectangular clear glass window in each side, above the chapel or foyer. There is no ceiling, but the roof is boarded with longitudinal planks without trusses (the pitch is too shallow for them).
The walls overall are in creamy white, but in between the chapels are clad in a grey-green marble with a yellow band at the level of the tops of the chapel portals. This band is run over the foyer portals, but not the chapels ones. The effect is to give a false impression of rectangular aisle piers.
The terracotta Stations of the Cross are by Raoul Vistoli 1963.
The sanctuary is a vertical cuboid, fully open to the nave via an enormous rectangular aperture (the architect avoided the use of the round-headed arch in this church), with banks of windows on the side walls and the ceiling and back wall painted orange-pink.
The altar was brought forward in a 1970's refitting, but the tabernacle has been left in place. This is in a triangular-headed niche decorated with mosaic work depicting Eucharistic symbols, and set into a screen of limestone wall-tiles with, again, the slightly angled top edge. Very unusually for Rome, prominent over the tabernacle there is an excellent organ (those interested will find its specifications on the unusually good Italian Wikipedia page). The instrument has been embellished to be a decorative feature, with gilded pipes.
The present altar, baptismal font and ambo (lectern) are the result of another refitting in 2009.
The crucifix hanging between the tabernacle and organ, in bronze and gilded wood, is by Publio Morbiducci.
Side chapels Edit
There are three chapels on each side of the nave and two flanking the sanctuary, eight in all. The nave chapels have identical layouts, being rectangular with a pair of stained glass window strips on each side of the altar and grey-green marble revetting on the further ends of the side walls. Some of the stained glass is of high quality. The description is anticlockwise, beginning from the entrance.
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to Pope St Pius X, and has a statue of the saint in gesso by De Pisis.
The second chapel on the right is that of Reconciliation, with good stained glass and a Crucifixion by Massimo di Cave. The work includes a suppliant figure, interpreted as a penitent. The chapel contains confessionals, which unfortunately obscure the windows.
The third chapel on the right is dedicated to Our Lady, Mater Misericordiae and has stained glass depicting the Annunciation, Marriage at Cana and Calvary as well as a patinated bronze relief above the altar containing a Madonna and Child in terracotta.
The third chapel on the left is dedicated to the Sacred Heart, with a bronze altarpiece statue attached to the wall. Also here is the former altarpiece statue from the next chapel, a wooden sculpture of St Francis of Assisi. The stained glass depicts scenes from his life.
The first chapel on the left is the former Baptistery, which has a mosaic depicting New Jerusalem. Since 2009, the font has been disused.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 19:00;
Sundays and Solemnities 7:30, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:15, 19:00.