Sant’Ambrogio all'Aurelio is a mid 20th century parish church at Via Girolamo Vitelli 23, in the Aurelio quarter just north of the Via Aurelia near Baldo degli Ubaldi metro station. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons (unfortunately shrouded in scaffolding) are here.
The dedication is to St Ambrose of Milan.
The parish was erected in 1961, and St Ambrose was chosen as the patron because of a pun on his full name (Aurelius Ambrosius) and that of the quarter (Aurelio).
The church was designed by Paolo Rebecchini, and had its foundation stone laid in 1968. It was completed in 1973.
There was a complete restoration and re-fitting in 2008, supervised by Roberto Panella.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church has been described as elliptical, and that is the impression that it gives. However, the plan is actually a regular hexadecagon -a polygon with sixteen sides. The fabric is in reinforced concrete and red brick.
The main body of the church is a large red-brick tower, shaped rather like a bishop's mitre owing to the curve of the roof. This slopes down slightly from the altar, then rises steeply to above the entrance, where there is a slight gable. The rooflines of the other fifteen sides are occupied by straight concrete beams at varying angles, covered in metal flashing. The corners of the polygon are occupied by thin but proud framework piers in white concrete, which terminate at the roofline and have their tops covered by the flashing. In between the pilasters, the walls are infilled with blank red brickwork.
The roof itself is sealed with a red composition.
The main body of the church is surrounded by a low structural ambulatory. Round the front nine sides this is a corridor, with each side (apart from the front entrance) having a row of five vertical rectangular windows. The roof is flat, with the horizontal concrete beams separating each of the nine sectors left visible. The walling is in creamy white, contrasting neatly with the red brick above.
The back seven sides have a much wider annexe. The 2008 restoration converted this into a ferial chapel (to the right) and sacristy accommodation. The near ends each have a side doorway.
The campanile is a stand-alone structure to the left. It is a quirky erection in the form of an L in steel girders painted red, with an elevated horizontal portion comprising horizontal girders separated by trusses, and a vertical portion forming the actual bell-housing. This has the bells hanging exposed between two sets of girders each in an X.
The church is obviously on a crypt, because the single front entrance is approached by quite a steep flight of stairs. The doorway is flanked by a pair of window strips.
Above the entrance is a round stained glass window, and flanking this are two sets of small square windows with projecting frames, each forming a Greek cross. The fenestration of the window has a cross motif, with the symmetry "off" in a rather Impressionistic style.
The sixteen piers that you saw on the outside are also visible inside. The roofline of the flanking structural ambulatory is marked by a set of sixteen concrete panels each bearing a blank tondo flanked by strigillate decoration. This is an ancient decorative motif often seen on sarcophagi -the strigillations are named after a cut-throat razor and are attenuated S's.
Above, the walls are occupied by a spectacular set of frescoes depicting scenes from the life of St Ambrose. The artist is given as Igino Cappelloni, but if this is correct he has no Internet profile. He also executed the Stations of the Cross, as Byzantine-style icons.
The roof is in square concrete coffers.
The sanctuary is slightly recessed, occupying three sectors, with four of the structural piers free-standing. The back wall is clad in polished limestone slabs. The altarpiece is a painted crucifix in two dimensions.
The two sectors on each side of the sanctuary have recessed glass screens, leaving a pilaster free-standing. To the right is to be found the Blessed Sacrament chapel, used for weekday Masses. This has stained glass windows in abstract patterns dominated by blue.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:00, 18:00 (in July and August, one Mass at 19:00;
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 9:30, 11:00, 12:15, 18:00 (in July and August, 8:30, 9:30, 19:00)