Sant’Edith Stein is a modern parish church at Via Siculiana 161, in the north of the suburb of Torre Bella Monaca which is part of the Torre Angela district. It is in between the Via Prenestina and the Via Casalina.
The official name of the patron saint is "St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross", her name as a Carmelite nun. It is unusual for the secular name of a saintly religious -Edith Stein- to be used for a dedication, and in this case it seems that a message is being given to secular society.
The rather small church was designed by Roberto Panella, and completed in 2009 to a post-modern design on a circular plan. The edifice, which is all in brilliant white, is formed from two squat cylinders telescoped one inside the other and having flat roofs. The shape is rather reminiscent of a small fortified tower, which leads to a rebus or visual pun. For the somewhat surprising name of the suburb, Torre Bella Monaca, means "Tower of the Beautiful Nun" which is also a fair description of the church. Was this deliberate?
Both roofs, the top of the inner cylinder and the ring around it formed by the outer cylinder, have deep and wide eaves with a decorative groove running around their centres. The eaves of the outer cylinder are broken by a monumental yet simple geometric gateway which frames the entrance, forming three sides of a prone rectangle and with the horizontal lintel forming a continuation of the eaves. Inside the gateway and over the entrance itself is a rectangular stained glass widow which is continued by s a vertical slit down the right side, and there are two sets of five grouped slit windows between loggia and eaves. Individual square windows are inserted just under the eaves of the inner cylinder, although these are difficult to see from outside.
Around the rest of the church is an outside ambulatory or loggia, reaching about halfway to the roofline and having a flat roof with spindly supporting columns. There is a campanile to the left of the gateway, with a square plan and five storeys to the open bellchamber. Each side of each storey has a rectangular panel in brilliant white, these being held by grey pilasters running up the corners. The bellchamber has a white frame on each side, nothing at the corners and a cage-like structure shaped like a prone Greek cross made up of metal poles sitting on top. The architect was obviously thinking of satellite images.
This charming building has already been nicknamed Chiesa Panettone or Chiesa UFO.
The stained glass window over the entrance has an abstract flame motif in red, white and yellow. Two contrasting vertical slit stained glass windows flank the altar, one in red and the other in blue. There are galleries against the walls, arranged in a quadrangle. Like the outside, the inside is all in white except for the spectacular ceiling. This is of laminated wood, and the rafters are arranged in an octogram or eight-pointed star. In the centre of this is a little square skylight. The tabernacle is also a spectacular design, being set into a column decorated with bonfire flames licking up it.
This church is well worth visiting, although one has to go for a tiresome journey in order to get to it from the centre of the city.