Sant'Achille comprises two church edifices, a mid 20th century one replaced by a larger one. These are on the same site in the Monte Sacro Alto district, at Via Gaspara Stampa 64. Pictures of the churches on Wikimedia Commons are here.
The dedication is to an obscure Greek bishop of the 4th century, St Achilles of Larissa.
The parish was erected in 1957, and given the odd dedication because Achilles was the baptismal name of Pope Pius XI, and the erection was on the centenary of his birth. The new parish was put into the care of the Regular Tertiaries of St Francis (TOR).
A little church was provided, of a very straightforward design. However, this quickly proved too small and the replacement church was designed by Giorgio Guidi, begun in 1968 and completed in 1973.
Old church Edit
The old church has been allowed to remain, and is to the left of the new one. It is a very simple structure, comprising a rectangular reinforced concrete frame in six bays with piers tapered downwards (a very Fifties design feature). This stands on a limestone plinth. The roof is supported by transverse beams, and has a very slight double pitch. The concrete slab infill panels leave gaps at the tops in the side walls, creating a row of windows below the rooflines, but are solid at front and back except for the single entrance door. This is accessed by a flight of steps, and has an icon of the Madonna and Child in Byzantine style above it. The panels are rendered in a pale orange.
This church is attached to the original parish and social centre, which is a long single three-storey range running off to the right and behind the new church.
Layout and fabric Edit
The new church has a fan-shaped plan, a quarter-circle converging on the altar. It is a low edifice in reinforced concrete with some red brick facing, and has a flat roof with a deep bargeboard in white. At the altar end there is a three-quarter circle apse which contains the sanctuary, and which has its own flat roof with a high parapet describing a full circle. Within this is a cylindrical concrete lantern turret also with a flat cap.
The side walls are in naked concrete. To the right is appended a subsidiary range containing confessionals and a ferial chapel, and to the left the church joins onto ancillary accommodation arranged around a square cloister which includes the old three-storey range at its far side. This complex contains cultural and social facilities as well as parochial ones.
There is a spectacular detached tower campanile which stands alone, a red-brick cylinder with five thin white concrete string courses and a complex bell chamber in concrete. From above the latter looks like a the wheel of a water-mill with four paddles, and has its four sound-holes radial to the surface of the cylinder.
The curved entrance wall of the church is faced in bright red brick, which is laid in a decorative pattern of vertical dentillations. The central section of the wall is brought forward, and contains the single entrance. This has a railed rectangular portal below a horizontal concrete beam bearing the text Il Signore è il mio pastore ("The Lord is my shepherd"), and above this is a fresco of Christ the Good Shepherd in Byzantine style on a recessed panel.
The wall has a thin window strip below the roofline.
The portal leads into a lobby, with the actual main church entrance straight ahead. A corridor runs off to the right and left, in between the entrance frontage wall and the actual wall of the church which has four vertical slit windows on either side of the main doorway. This corridor leads to two subsidiary entrances to the church, and to the left ends in a side portal from outside. To the right it ends in a window, with a statue of St Achilles in front.
The main doorway has a pair of doors in patinated metal, with a vine-scroll design. The holy water stoup is a marble shell on an ancient tombstone (?).
The main interior is a single space, bounded by the diagonal raw concrete walls on either side. These show their vertical shuttering marks, and are starting to look dirty. The flat roof has large diaper coffers in concrete beams.
To the right are two wide rectangular voids filled with plate glass, beyond which are the baptistery and the ferial chapel. The door into this area has stained glass panels, and above the voids are the Stations of the Cross in what looks like bronze.
To the right of the sanctuary is a large icon in Byzantine style of St Achilles, and to the left is a copy of the famous Crucifix of San Damiano with a prayer of St Francis next to it.
The chapel has two fragments of mediaeval fresco (they look 14th century), one showing Our Lady with suppliants, and the other St Catherine of Siena having a vision.
The curved apse wall is in red brick, and on it hang three statues in metal which represent St John the Baptist, Our Lady and St Francis. St John is pointing to a copper disc containing the all-seeing eye, a symbol of Christ.
The actual altarpiece is a screen with three icon panels in strictly traditional Byzantine style, showng The Resurrected Christ, The Crucifixion and The Entombment.
Unlike the nave, the little roof here is provided with a flat white ceiling around the lantern which casts a diffuse natural light.
The church is open 7:15 to 12:30, 16:30 to 19:30.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:30, 18:30 (17:15 on Thursdays, followed by Adoration and Vespers);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:00, 18:30.
Lauds is celebrated at 7:45 daily after a half-hour meditation beginning at 7:15, and Vespers at 19:15.