Sant’Edith Stein is a 21st century parish church at Via Siculiana 161, in a locality called Due Leoni which is part of the Torre Angela zone. 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 Discalced 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 parish was erected in 1998, by dividing the mother parish of Santa Rita da Cascia a Torre Angela. It serves the two neighbourhoods of Due Leoni and Valle Fiorita, which are desperate not to be considered as part of Tor Bella Monaca just to the west (the latter is popularly considered to be Rome's pezzo di merda.
The permanent church was approved in 2005, designed by Roberto Panella and completed in 2009.
Layout and fabric Edit
The main 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 castle.
Both roofs, the top of the inner cylinder and the ring around it formed by the outer cylinder, have deep projecting eaves each with a groove running along their middles. This groove marks the junction between the eaves proper, and the parapets for the flat roofs behind.
A sector of sixty degrees at the front of the lower storey is brought forward by the depth of the projection of the eaves, thus creating an entrance bay. The roof of this is further continued as the covering of a massive porch on the plan of three sides of a square. Similarly, a sector of the same angle is extended back to form the sanctuary.
Individual square windows are inserted just under the eaves of the second storey, although these are difficult to see from outside. The first storey has a set of five thin vertical rectangular windows on each side, which are below the roofline and are aligned to throw light on the altar. There is a floor-to-roof slit window in each angle of the projecting sanctuary sector, but the entrance sector has one only in its right hand angle.
The main roof of the church reveals its structure in satellite images, having the pattern of a cross with thick arms set within an eight-pointed star.
Around the right hand side of the church to behind the altar runs an outside ambulatory, reaching about halfway to the roofline and having a flat roof with spindly supporting columns.
The left hand side of the church is occupied by ancillary accommodation, including the ferial chapel. This shelters beneath a canopy formed by extending the flat roof outwards on thin columns, and has its red brick exterior front wall at an angle to the edge of this canopy.
This charming building has already been nicknamed Chiesa Panettone or Chiesa UFO.
There is a tall tower campanile to the left of the gateway, having the plan of a chamfered square. There are five storeys to the open bell-chamber, separated by concrete beams fitting into diagonally set piers occupying the chamfers. This framework is in light grey. The faces of each storey are occupied by bright white rectangular panels in slight relief, with a vertical gap down each side.
The bell-chamber has a white rectangular concrete 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 here as well.
The façade is away from the street, and the entrance courtyard is accessed via an iron railing gate with a cross motif. This courtyard is decoratively paved in red, grey and white blocks, as is the area under the ambulatory and an entrance patio accessed via five steps.
The entrance portico is a gigantic rectangular pylon, formed of massive white concrete blocks which mostly present a square profile. Four of these on each side form the piers, and support a beam of nine blocks. The central block is rectangular, and bears an intaglio device of a cross within a circle.
The entrance doorway is set in a frame which is a miniature version of the pylon. This encloses forty-eight glass panes in a grid frame which is eight by four, the glass being orange except for eight central squares in clear glass forming a cross. The actual doors are part of this arrangement. On the lintel of the doorframe is a dedicatory inscription: D.O.M. in honorem S. Edithae Stein virginis et martiris A.D. MMIX.
A very large rectangular stained glass window occupies the space between the lintel and the underside of the pylon roof, and this is continued in thin strips to the ground on either side of the doorframe.
Main church Edit
Inside, it is immediately obvious that the second storey is supported by four massive concrete beams forming a square with the corners touching the points where the entrance and sanctuary bays form angles with the main nave space. There are engaged rectangular piers supporting them here. Above the beams are four galleries, each lit by three square windows. The balconies have solid frontages with recessed rectangular panels.
The interior is also mostly in white, with colour being provided by the stained glass. The floor is in polished pale brown marble, but the walls are in white concrete blocks left slightly rough.
The stained glass window over the entrance has an abstract flame motif in red, white and yellow. The interior entrance doors, four of them, are in clear etched glass with a wavy square-and-vertical-stripe motif.
Two contrasting vertical slit stained glass windows flank the altar, one in red with yellow and the other in blue with yellow. The square windows lighting the gallery above the sanctuary also have stained glass.
The spectacular ceiling 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 sanctuary is on a segmentally shaped platform, up three steps faced in the same marble as the floors. This is also used for the benches for the liturgical ministers, flanking a central president's chair in the curve of the apse. The apse wall is blank, bearing a crucifix, and has a hidden doorway to the left which leads out to the far end of the ambulatory round the right hand side of the church.
The altar, ambo or lectern and the font form a set in rough-cut grey marble, and this marble is also used for the polished floor and treads of the stairs. The liturgical items have gilded detailing.
A set of Stations of the Cross in polychrome resin sculptures has been provided. There is also a realistic statue of the patron saint in the Carmelite habit, with two children wearing concentration camp uniforms (nobody is on record as seeing her at Auschwitz, so it is a surmise that she spent any time there instead of going straight to the gas chamber from the train).
Blessed Sacrament Chapel Edit
The ferial chapel for weekday Masses is to the left of the main building, and is a rectangular space separated from the nave by a large clear glass screen. It has four vertical rectangular windows in its front wall, with yellow and white stained glass.
The tabernacle is a spectacular design, being set into a column decorated with bonfire flames licking up it.
As at summer 2016, Mass is being celebrated (according to the parish website):
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:30, 19:00.
The evening Masses may be at 18:00 in winter.