Sant’Ilario di Poitiers is a later 20th century parish church at Via Cologno Monzese 6 in the suburb of Palmarola, which is in the south-western part of the Ottavia zone to the north-west of the city.
The patron saint is Hilary of Poitiers.
The parish was established in 1977, in a poor area in which illegal building development had taken place. It was the first of three parishes established for this suburb, none of which has been provided with proper churches -also see Santa Brigida di Svezia and San Massimo Vescovo a Palmarola.
At the time, it was thought that the primary need was to provide an immediate pastoral ministry for an area unprovided with social facilities or decent transport links. Hence, these three parishes took over shops in apartment blocks in lieu of church edifices.
It seems that there was no initial intention to build a permanent church for the suburb at a later date, and so the parishioners here have spent a lot of effort fitting out their place of worship. However the idea of having what the Americans call a storefront church has fallen seriously out of favour in the Diocese, with both Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI demonstrating disapproval. The tendency now, in the 21st century, is for the Diocese to replace storefront churches and chapels with permanent buildings.
The parishioners at Santa Brigida seem to be hoping that this will come about. However, it seems very unlikely that a new church would be provided for all three parishes. San Massimo looks vulnerable, since it has a very low profile, but the parishioners at Sant'Ilario would be upset at losing their present place of worship in which they have made a serious investment.
Although there are no formal plans yet (2016), the possible outcome might be a new church for Santa Brigida, the merger of the other two parishes with it and Sant'Ilario being kept on as a subsidiary Mass centre for as long as a priest is available to say Mass here.
There is no purpose-built church, and the community worship in a small apartment block in yellow brick. It is the one just to the west of a football pitch, on the north side of the east end of the rather long street.
There are two worshipping spaces, a ferial one on the ground floor in the right hand side of the apartment block and the main one underground, in a crypt. These have separate gateways. The parish offices are in the left hand side of the block.
The ground floor entrance has a ceramic tile depiction of St Hilary next to the doorway.
In between the ground floor gateway and the crypt ramp is a shrine to Our Lady, with an icon in a classical Byzantine style. Traditional Byzantine iconography features heavily in the interior decoration, too.
The crypt gateway gives onto a stepped ramp leading down to a doorway in the right hand side wall of the block. The gate has an impressive ornate gilded ball-and-cross finial on it.
To the right of the crypt gateway is a campanile, in the form of a thin pylon made of four steel rods connected by X-struts. At its top is a metal cage for the single bell, in the form of an arch within a gable. A cross finial is on top.
Despite the unpromising architectural spaces, the parish have done very well in fitting out the worshipping areas. As mentioned, the iconography is traditionally Byzantine and very well done.
Just inside the door is a little lobby with a Calvary as a wall painting.
The main church is dominated by the baptismal font, which is a cross-shaped recess sunk into a platform of black marble with three steps. The font is accompanied by four rectangular piers helping to support the ceiling, arranged on the corners of a trapezoid in the plan and being clad in yellowish-pink marble. The back pair are connected by a horizontal beam also in black marble, and this has a gilded inscription which is the start of the Shema Yisrael prayer in Hebrew. This is continued on the far left hand pier, while the right hand pier has the text in Italian Lk 6:28-8. The near piers have inscriptions from the texts for the consecration of the church.
These piers support a ceiling in white, fabricated in cut-away layered panels giving the impression of an enormous inset tulip flower. Two further piers are nearer the altar, and these are frescoed with enormous angels.
The altar is surrounded by a floor in tiny multi-coloured thin rectangular tiles. It is painted on all four sides as well as on top with Biblical scenes relating to the Eucharist.
There are further iconic representations on the walls -see the parish website here for photos (unfortunately there seem to be none giving a good overview of the interior).
Ferial chapel Edit
The cappellina has a large iconic depiction of The Last Supper on its back wall. The free-standing centrally placed altar is in the form of a square vase, with depictions of saints.
This is probably the best storefront church in the city, and is worth a visit.
According to the Diocese, it is open:
Daily 7:00 to 13:00, 16:00 to 21:00.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 18:30 (preceded by Vespers at 17:30, except Thursday when it is Office of Readings);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 18:30 (with Vespers).