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Sant’Anna al Laterano

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Sant’Anna al Laterano is a 20th century convent church at Via Merulana 177, near San Giovanni in Laterano in the rione Esquilino. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.

The dedication is to St Anne , the mother of Our Lady.

HistoryEdit

The Daughters of St Anne (Figlie di Sant'Anna) is an active congregation of sisters, which was founded in Genoa in 1867 by Blessed Anna Rosa Gattorno. It is now international in scope, and has contemplative and male branches.

The convent is the Generalate or central headquarters of the congregation, and was built here with the church in 1885. The church was rebuilt in 1927. 

ExteriorEdit

Façade Edit

The façade is in a rather heavy-handed, vaguely neo-Renaissance style in grey limestone.

Either side of the entrance are two pairs of gigantic shallow blind pilasters with no capitals, but which are continued through to the cornice of the crowning entablature by means of matching posts. The cornice of the entablature has both dentillations and modillions There is a small triangular pediment above the inner pair of pilasters, containing a little round window.

The recessed entrance is flanked by a pair of triply conjoined Composite pilasters which support a lintel bearing the year of rebuilding (1927). if you look at the capitals of the pilasters, you will see that the symbols of the Evangelists are included in them. This lintel is continued as an entablature across the width of the façade, and above it is a large recessed tympanum surrounded by four orders of molded decoration in the archivolt. The tympanum has a relief of St Anne with Our Lady as a little girl, being adored by a pair of angels.

Above the tympanum is a striking recessed round window (oculus), in a dished frame which has rectangular recessed panels. A wide molded string course runs between this and the entrance arch, and is continued across the façade behind the pilasters.

Campanile Edit

2011 Anna a Merulana

The façade is not the highest part of the church's street frontage. Towering above it is the campanile, set slightly back from the top of the pediment. Each of the four faces has a set of soundholes formed of three high and narrow arches separated by thin Composite columns. Above this arcade is a row of three round windows, then an entablature with three small round windows in the frieze. The cornice projects, and is crowned by a triangular pediment on the entrance and altar sides only.

Most Roman churches have metal crosses as the crowning finial on their façades. The Diocese used to insist on this. Unusually, this church has two -one above the pediment of the façade, and one on the street-facing pediment of the campanile.

InteriorEdit

Layout Edit

The church has a single nave of four bays preceded by an additional very shallow entrance bay, and followed by a large apse having a conch which comprises the sanctuary. The apse has an ambulatory, and above this and in the upper nave side walls are galleries for the sisters.

Nave Edit

Over the entrance, in the entrance bay, is a wooden organ gallery corbelled out on wooden scroll brackets, mostly unpainted but with decorative panels in blue, white and gold.

The side walls each have four shallow round-headed niches, each framed by a molded arch in red marble and backed by revetting in grey marble. These niches are separated by Corinthian pilasters in alabaster, and in front of these are three free-standing alabaster Corinthian columns which support the gallery above. The latter is slightly cantilevered out over the nave, and has modesty grilles to protect the privacy of the sisters.

These used to be side chapels, but some have had their altars removed. The altarpieces are round-headed, framed in black marble, and feature St Michael the Archangel, St Francis, the Holy Family and the Sacred Heart. They are a matching set painted in 1927 in an attractively realistic style (who was the artist?).

The second niche on the right has an odd liitle white marble aedicule that looks as if it used to be a tabernacle. This has a pair of ribbed Corinthian pilasters flanking a trompe l'oeil giving the impression of an open hallway with a coffered ceiling. The open doors reveal an icon of St Anne with Our Lady as a girl. Above the oversized triangular pediment is a fresco of angel musicians.

The first niche on the left has a fresco of the foundress, Blessed Anna Rosa Gattorno, and here is her tomb.

The second niche on the left is actually a doorway into a Lourdes grotto. There is a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes outside, and much fake stonework which looks like rotten coral.

Ceiling skylight Edit

The flat nave ceiling is coffered and, very unusually, has a large skylight in the form of a cross. This has Tiffany stained glass, depicting the crucified Christ accompanied by angels in five panels. The church is completely hemmed in by other buildings, and so has no other windows.

This is easily the best thing in the church.

Sanctuary Edit

The triumphal arch is supported by two pairs of square Composite pillars in alabaster, the inner pair being slightly set back and actually supporting the molded archivolt which encloses the apse conch. The spandrels have two frescoes of scenes featuring Our Lady as a girl.

The apse has an ambulatory with an arcade, separated from the sanctuary by wooden screens with grilles. Above this is a matching gallery, trabeated without arcades. Both of these have columns in green marble resembling verde antico. The gallery has screens also, and in the centre is enshrined an icon of the Madonna and Child.

The gallery columns support an entablature with an inscription reading Egredietur virga de radice Jesse, flos de radice ejus ascendet, which translates "A shoot will come from the root-stock of Jesse, a flower form his root-stock will spring up". The shoot and flower refer to Our Lady, and the root-stock to St Anne.

The conch of the apse has a superb fresco of St Anne with Our Lady, at the latter's Presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem. The scene is actually transposed to some distance outside the city, visible in the background, and has the two of them standing under four palm trees and being venerated by a group of the faithful. Standing to either side are the four Latin Doctors of the Church, SS Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome. The Dove of the Holy Spirit features as well.

Access and liturgy Edit

The church has recently had an increase in liturgical activity, and has become a centre for celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form. As a result, older online listings of its opening times (which used to be very restricted) are now incorrect.

Mass is now celebrated (official source):

Weekdays 7:00, 8:00 (replaced in summer by one Mass at 7:30);

Sundays 8:00, 9:00, 11:00, 17:00 (in the Extraordinary Form).

External linksEdit

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Daughters of St Anne website

"De Alvariis" gallery on Flickr

Roman Despatches - blog (with gallery)

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