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Sant'Ignazio alla Storta

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Sant’Ignazio alla Storta ("La Cappella della Visione") is a small 20th century church (replacing a destroyed late 17th century one) on the Piazza della Visione in the old village of La Storta, which is on the Via Cassia. A picture of the church on Wikimedia Commons is here.

The dedication is to St Ignatius of Loyola.

This church is in the municipality of Rome, but belongs to the diocese of Porto Santa Rufina.

History Edit

Mediaeval chapel Edit

La Storta in the Middle Ages is identified with a hamlet at the ninth milestone on the Via Cassia, regarded as the last rest-stop for travellers before arriving at the city. Many of these were pilgrims on the so-called Via Francigena pilgrim route. There was a church or chapel here which was called San Giovanni in Nono, named after the milestone but with poor documentation as regards its foundation.

The church was the setting for a supernatural vision granted to St Ignatius of Loyola in this place in November 1537, which led him to establish the Society of Jesus as an apostolic religious order. He had been travelling with some companions from Venice to Rome, and they had stopped off to pray here. Apparently the mediaeval edifice was in a poor state of repair at the time.

1700 church Edit

At the end of the 17th century, the church was rebuilt as a pious project on behalf of the Jesuits by their Superior General, Thyrsus González de Santalla. It remained as the pastoral outlet for an area which was completely rural and thinly populated, and was administered by the Jesuits.

In 1944, the church was destroyed in a bombing raid aimed at the nearby railway. Instead of rebuilding it, it was decided to erect a larger church on a separate site. This was because the area was attracting suburban development for which the little church would have been inadequate. The result was Sacri Cuori di Gesù e Mari di Porto Santa Rufina, finished in 1950 and made the cathedral of the diocese.

1983 rebuilding Edit

The abandonment of the old church was resented, and a campaign was started to rebuild it. This bore fruit in 1983, when a rebuilt church was opened. There was no pastoral justification, but several motivations:

It was hoped that the Via Francigena pilgrimage route to Rome would become a popular alternative to the Camino de Santiago.

The church was valued as part of the historical patrimony of La Storta, which wanted to be viewed as more than just another Rome suburb.

It was expected that the connection with St Ignatius would lead to much visitor interest.

Cappella della Visione Edit

The rebuilt edifice tends not to be referred to as a church, but is generally nicknamed the Cappella della Visione. The Jesuits did not regain the administration, which was entrusted to the local parish.

In 2011, the first "Festival of the Vision" was held, focused on the second Sunday in November and celebrating the anniversary of the supernatural experience of St Ignatius. This has been repeated annually.

Unfortunately, hopes for the rebuilt church have not been well realised. The revival of the Via Francigena pilgrim route has not been a popular success, owing to a serious lack of facilities for pilgrims along its route. Accommodation is a major problem. The Jesuit interest has been rather muted, owing in great part to the decline of that once great Society. Finally, some of the local inhabitants have been seriously abusing the premises.

In 2014, the parish priest announced that the church would only be open for liturgical events. This was after the vandalising of one picture and the theft of another in two apparently related incidents in June, but there had already been problems with vandalism and misuse including people urinating inside the church. The decision was seriously unpopular with some locals and was protested, but the alternative was a full-time paid custodian.

The church was being found open in 2015, and it is unclear what the present arrangements are as regards access.

Exterior Edit

The church is a small, unpretentious single-roomed building, with the exterior rendered in purplish pink. A single square window is in each side wall, framed in grey granite (the left hand wall has an additional smaller window near the façade). A tiny bellcote is on the far end of the right hand side wall, in the form of an arch. There is no apse.

The façade has two large Doric pilasters on either corner, supporting a triangular pediment. The doorway, together with two square windows on either side, are also framed in grey granite. Above the door is a large marble tablet with a dedicatory inscription dating from the 18th century rebuilding. In the pediment is a horizontally ovoid window, again in grey stone, with two outline triangles on either side matching the pediment and curved where facing the window.

The epigraph reads:

D.O.M. In hoc sacello, Deus Pater S. Ignatio Romam petenti ad Societatem Iesu instituendam, anno MDXXXVII apparuit, ipsum eiusque socios Christo filio crucem baiulanti benigne commendans qui sereno vultu Ignatium intuens, his verbis affatus est: Ego vobis Romae propitius ero. Thursus Gonzalez, praepositus generalis Societatis, sacello refecto et ornato sancto Parenti p. Anno MDCC.

("To God the best and greatest. In this little shrine, God the Father appeared to St Ignatius going to Rome to found the Society of Jesus in the year 1537, and kindly entrusted him and his companions to Christ the Son bearing the cross who, with a serene face looking at Ignatius, with these words declared: I will be favourable to you at Rome. Thyrsus González, superior general of the Society, petitions the holy parent at this restored and decorated little shrine, in the year 1700.")

Interior Edit

Inside, the far wall behind the altar has an interesting mural in rectangular glazed tiles, depicting the Vision in a semi-abstract style. The title on the work is written to the right: Io a Roma Sarò con Voi.

A picture of St Ignatius hangs on the right hand side wall -this was vandalised in 2014.

A matching picture of The Vision of St Ignatius by Teresa Lapocasale on the left hand wall was stolen in the same year.

A mosaic depiction of the Madonna and Child in a derivative Byzantine style is also to to be found here.

Liturgy Edit

Mass is celebrated at 8:00, Mondays to Fridays.

You might find the chapel locked up over the weekend, as no regular liturgical events are held here then.

External links Edit

Parish web-page

Info.roma web-page

Richard Rego blog page

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