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San Tommaso Apostolo ad Infernetto

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San Tommaso Apostolo ad Infernetto is a 21st century parish and titular church at Via Lino Liviabella 93 in the Infernetto suburb, east of Lido di Ostia. This is in the Castel di Decima zone.

The dedication is to St Thomas the Apostle.

HistoryEdit

Before the Second World War the parish territory was entirely rural, and belonged to Santa Maria Regina Pacis a Ostia Lido (a portion was later briefly under the charge of San Giorgio in Acilia). The odd name Infernetto, meaning “Little Hell”, derives allegedly from the ovens of charcoal-makers exploiting the forest to the east.

The suburb grew up completely haphazardly from the end of the Second World War, much of it being originally comprised of shacks without any sewerage, mains water or social facilities.

A public chapel attached to the Ostia church was begun in 1955, and consecrated in 1957. The architects were Francesco Fornari and Marco Petreschi. It became a parish church seven years later.

The parish was set up in 1964, and was initially administered by the Sylvestrine Benedictines at San Stefano del Cacco. However, they soon handed over to diocesan clergy.

The faithful had to worship in the small former chapel for over forty years, until the construction of a new permanent church was approved in 2008. However some inhabitants of the suburb, which has become quite high-class despite its name and original bad reputation, wished to have the site used for a school instead. Having a luxurious, well-appointed house on an enclosed plot up a muddy, unadopted lane in a suburb like this was very useful if you had no intention of declaring most of your income to the tax authorities -but lack of social facilities is a drawback. (Those who believe the hype as to this being a suburb for poor people are advised to view the place on Google Earth, and count the swimming-pools.)

This opposition delayed the laying of the first stone until 2010. The architect appointed for the project was Marco Petreschi. Construction took three years, and the church was consecrated in 2013. It is regarded as one of Petreschi's best works.

The church was made titular in 2015, the first cardinal priest being Peter Nguyễn Văn Nhơn of Hanoi in Vietnam.

Old churchEdit

The old former chapel is at Via Lino Liviabella 70 which is the other side of the street.

It is a simple rectangular brick edifice, painted white, with a polygonal apse. There is a slab-like false façade having a gable, and a floating canopy across the entire width above the entrance, made up of five low arcs. Above this is a mural showing the face of Christ. The actual church is much lower than the height of the gable.

This building is still standing, for the time being. A picture is here.

New churchEdit

The new church is part of a larger social amenity complex, and stands away from the street. In front of it is a large piazza, paved in dark grey concrete blocks with white ones inserted to form a square grid pattern.

The plan of the church is based on a square, but some of the frontages of the various elements of the elevation are at slight angles to the sides of the square and consist of cuboids slightly rotated on the plan. This gives a very complicated geometrical aspect to the exterior of the edifice which is difficult to describe. A photo of the entrance façade is here.

The fenestration includes a repeated design feature involving a tall, thin rectangular recess running from near the bottom of the wall to near the top and having two horizontal concrete beams inserted into its middle.

The external fabric is mainly in high-quality pink brick, with some wall sections revetted in limestone ashlar and some architectural elements displayed in white concrete. The latter type includes the dominant exterior design feature, which is a large floating horizontal canopy framing the entire edifice at its top and which forms the outline of the square in the plan. This is on bracket corbels, rather like an enormous set of shelves.

The fenestration includes a repeated design feature involving a tall, thin rectangular recess running from near the bottom of the wall to near the top and having two horizontal concrete beams inserted into its middle.

The sanctuary includes an asymmetrical polygonal apse, containing fenestration in the style just mentioned.

Roof Edit

The main roof of the church is in the form of a very low saucer-dome, having the shape of a smaller square nested within the main square and with its corners touching the midpoints of the latter. It has a cross-shaped skylight, reaching to the edges of the dome at the middle of all four sides and tapering to points in doing so. The corners of the dome interrupt the horizontal canopy mentioned above. There is a low drum amounting to a row of horizontal rectangular windows on each side, below a white bargeboard. 

Campanile Edit

A tower campanile of novel design stands halfway down the left hand side of the church.

The design begins with a square tower in pink brick, with a bell-chamber clad in polished limestone and having a flat top. There is a rectangular sound-hole in each of the sides parallel to the church wall, and a cross in metal rods on the two other sides. The tower has its side nearest the church cut away from about five-sixths of the way to the top, the entire side below this being missing and the two adjacent sides having a diagonal cut from a quarter of the way along near the bell-chamber to three-quarters of the way along at the ground. The void thus created by this design is filled by a pair of thin concrete pillars. See an isometric drawing here.

Façade Edit

The façade contains three asymmetrical design elements. The single entrance portal is in the centre, and is flanked by a pair of engaged square brick piers which run almost to the canopy but leave a gap at the top. Above the doorway in between these piers the wall is revetted in polished limestone. The piers are themselves flanked by a pair of white concrete columns which help to support the canopy.

To the right is a skewed brick cuboid, with a pair of the tall, thin monumental window recesses which occur elsewhere in the church.

To the left is the ferial chapel, a distinct structure which is substantially lower than the main body of the church and which has a blank exterior wall revetted in limestone.

The canopy floats above these three structural elements, so you can glimpse the square saucer dome through the gap between it and them.

InteriorEdit

Layout and fabric Edit

The layout of the interior is traditional, with the altar at the far end opposite the entrance

The interior is dominated by the roofing arrangements. Four free-standing white concrete columns support a complex open frame made up of white concrete slabs on edge. The large central void in this frame is cross-shaped. The corners in the frame themselves support several thin square concrete pillars which finally support the actual domed roof.

The underside of the shallow dome is in unpainted varnished wood, with planking held together by battens parallel to the sides of the square and by eight main rafters. Four of these follow the diagonals of the square, meeting at an open square frame at the centre of the cross-shaped skylight, and four of them make up an smaller square nested within the larger outline.

A photo of the interior is here. The walling is in the same pink brickwork as the exterior, and the fenestration is in clear glass. The flooring is in polished travertine limestone slabs.

Sanctuary Edit

The apse walls are rendered in white, and the contrast with the red brickwork elsewhere catches the eye.

The altar is a free-standing block, of brown and grey stone showing a cross motif on the frontal. The centre of the cross has a gilded metal grille, the bars being wavy. The lectern to the right matches the altar, being made of the two colours of stone in a contrasting patter.

The apse contains a hanging crucifix, of a very traditional and familiar painted wooden type. Below it, the tabernacle is a grey box with a gilded cross motif in relief metalwork, in front of a set of horizontal dark brown panels which are given curves upwards and downwards. This feature in turn fronts a set of vertical gilded wooden tubes looking like a bundle of reeds.

AccessEdit

From the Lido-Cristoforo Columbo metro station, buses 06 or 066 run to the Castel Porziano-Torcegno stop from which it is a short walk.

If you visit this church, you should also see San Corbiniano in the same suburb -it's another very good 21st century titular church.

LiturgyEdit

Mass is celebrated:

Weekdays 19:00 (plus 20:30 Saturdays);

Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30.

The parish still uses Santa Maria dei Pellegrini e Sant’Aristide as a subsidiary church.

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Parish website

Architect's proposal for new church

Info.roma web-page

"Marcopetreschi" web-page

Architects's photos on Altervista

Youtube video of consecration

Video of interview with architect on completion of church

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