Santa Bernadette Soubirous is a later 20th century parish church at Viale Ettore Franceschini 40, in the Colli Aniene suburban district between the Via Tiburtina and the Strada dei Parchi, south of the Ponte Mammolo.
The name of the church keeps the French of her original nickname, meaning "Little Bernarda" (her actual name was "Mary-Bernarda"). However, several published references to the church use the Italian Bernardetta. This is incorrect.
The parish was set up in 1975, in response to suburban development.
The permanent church was designed by Vivina Rizzi, and built in 1985 as part of a community and sports complex which backs onto a public park.
The plan is based on a square. This delineates the central worshipping area, and is surrounded by a larger rectangle which is almost a square. Three sides of this rectangle are equal distances from the central square, and comprise the sanctuary and elevated side areas. The fourth side is the entrance, which is slightly deeper (hence the rectangular form).
The church has a rather limited civic presence, being rather hidden away and with a low elevation. It stands well away from the street, on the other side of a large and irregularly shaped courtyard. Two ancillary buildings flank the street gateway, and a third is attached to the near right hand side of the church. A rather short campanile stands in isolation on the right hand side of the courtyard.
The near corner to the left is occupied by a side entrance with a flat canopy lower than the main roof, which cuts into the rectangle in the plan. Similarly, the right hand near corner is intruded upon by the sacristy block which in turn is joined onto one of the ancillary buildings of the complex.
The fabric has a reinforced concrete frame, with pink brick used for facing and infill. The exterior walls are in this pink brick, and are mostly windowless. The brickwork is broken by a thin concrete string course halfway up, which runs round the exterior. The bricks are laid in vertical panels of equal width which are alternately proud and slightly recessed.
The right hand side wall is interrupted by a large window at the far end, and the altar wall by a similar window at its left end.
Except for the central square, the roof is flat with the walls forming a parapet. However, over the central square it is in the form of a very low pyramid, almost flat, which is supported on four stepped plinths at the corners and has diagonal cross-ribs. Each side in between the plinths is occupied by a fenestration strip.
The campanile is a low free-standing red brick tower to the right of the courtyard, which is joined to the ancillary block further to the right by a screen wall. It has a flat top, and is in blank brickwork. The near face is separated from the other three sides by a wide slit running the entire height, and this provides the access to the open air for the sound of the bells within. Arguably they are too near the ground to be very effective.
The façade is mostly simple brick walling, with the vertical panels already mentioned. However, the walling is asymmetric around the single main entrance -if you count the relief panels in the brickwork, you will find eight on the left before the side entrance, and ten on the right before there is a little side door leading into the sacristy.
The entrance is a slot in the wall, with a floating rectangular concrete slab forming a canopy. Above this are two square stained glass windows side by side, and above these in turn a thick concrete beam marking the roofline which is lower than the top of the wall. The stained glass is in blue, with an abstract pattern.
Recently, a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes has been installed on top of the crowning concrete beam over the entrance. She gives a religious dimension to a façade which otherwise gives no clue that there is a church within.
The entrance is accessed via a set of stairs leading to a patio running the width of the façade.
The central square portion of the roof is supported on four white concrete piers, which are square at the base but have their corners progressively smoothed out towards their tops. These define a central worshipping space which is sunken, having steps leading down on all four sides. The far elevated side is the sanctuary.
A good modern wooden statue of the Madonna and Child is in the far left hand corner of the central area.
The walls are in the same pink brickwork as the outside. The roof is flat over the elevated side zones, but raised in its central square zone and bordered by a fenestration strip on all four sides. These strips contain three horizontal vanes, which diffuse the natural light. All the roofing is in dark grey.
The large windows to the far right and left have stained glass, as does a screen in the bottom left hand corner leading to the parish offices.
A set of Stations of the Cross are in the form of polychrome ceramic plaques.
The far wall of the sanctuary has recently been provided with a set of twelve full-length icons of saints in a traditional Byzantine style. It was rather bare before, only having a central hanging crucifix.
The church has generous opening hours:
Daily, 7:00 to 22:30.
According to the Diocese, Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 9:00, 18:00;
Saturdays and eves of Solemnities 17:00 (not June to August), 19:00;
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 17:00 (not June to August), 19:00.
There is Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on First Fridays from 17:30 to 18:30, and on the second Thursday of the month from 9:30 to 22:00 (that is, all day).
(The parish has no proper website.)