Santa Galla is a mid 20th century parish and titular church at Circonvallazione Ostiense 195 in the north of the suburb of Garbatella in the Ostiense quarter. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.
This church preserves the memory of Santa Galla Antiqua, an 18th century church and hospital complex originally founded in the Middle Ages. This stood north of the Piazza della Bocca della Verità, until it was demolished on Mussolini's instructions to make way for the new trunk road of the Via del Mare. This occurred to the church itself in 1928, although remnants of the hospital complex survived until 1935 when they were replaced by an office block. The Fascist government offered to fund a new church as a quid pro quo.
However, there was some wait before it made good on the promise. The new church was built in 1940, and a parish established for it when it was finished in the same year. The architect was Tullio Rossi.
The church was made titular in 2015. The first cardinal priest is Daniel Fernando Sturla Berhouet.
Layout and fabric Edit
This is one of Rossi's typical late neo-Romanesque designs, a traditional basilica with a little Modernist influence in its construction. It has a central nave with side aisles and a semi-circular apse, but no transept.
The central nave has a pitched and tiled roof, but the aisle roofs are flat. The exterior walls are in pinkish brick, with a few architectural details in travertine limestone.
The rather squat campanile, just slightly taller than the church, is attached to the left hand side of the entrance façade. It is a plain square brick tower with large vertical rectangular sound holes.
The entrance façade is mostly blank brickwork, but there is a decorative horizontal string-course of tiles, laid vertically and showing their edges, just below the travertine gabled roofline. There is an arch in the same tilework just above the centre of this. There is a tall recess below the string course, with a stepped edge and containing the main entrance door.
Above the door is a tympanum with an interesting mosaic in an Impressionist style, showing two peacocks drinking from a fountain and being bitten by two snakes, with two quails below. This is a very ancient Christian symbol. Above the tympanum in the recess is a vertical rectangular window with one vertical and three horizontal stone mullions, and above that is a Papal coat of arms carved on a square stone tablet.
The aisle frontages are recessed. The aisle entrances are of the same height as the main one, but instead of tympani have transom windows with mullions in the shape of a Greek cross. This pattern of window is repeated in the nave clerestory above the aisles, seven on each side.
The other interesting feature of the façade is the propylaeum, which is not a porch because it has no roof except over the aisle entrances. A horizontal stone beam runs in front of the façade for its entire length, supported on the outer corners and between nave and aisle frontages by double square pilasters. In front of the nave frontage it is supported by a pair of single pilasters. The beam bears a dedicatory inscription: D[eo] O[ptimo] M[aximo], in honorem S[anctae] Gallae Vid[uae], A[nno] D[omini] MCMXL.
The interior is rather simple. The central nave ends in a wide triumphal arch leading into the apsidal sanctuary, and the narrow side aisles have a chapel at each end. The walls are all painted in creamy white.
There is no ceiling, and the trussed roof has its woodwork stained dark.
The only colour in the interior comes from the aisle columns painted pink, which do not support an arcade but a horizontal trabeation on each side. Above them in the central nave walls are rectangular windows with mullions. The simplified Doric capitals of the columns (little better than imposts) are in ochre yellow.
An organ occupies the apse behind the altar. This is an ugly arrangement, but the instrument itself is of very high quality. See the Italian Wikipedia page for its specifications.
The high altar itself, unusually small, consists of a 1st century pagan funerary altar salvaged from the old church in 1928 but only brought here from San Giorgio in Velabro in 1988. It had been dedicated for Christian use by Pope Gregory VII in 1073, as an inscription on the right hand side declares. It is so small that a rather attractive white metal floor-stand in the form of a grape-vine has been provided for the missal. The front and side panels of the altar are edged in intricate vine-scroll decoration, but the back panel is completely occupied by a relief carving of an laurel-tree. There's a rabbit eating grapes at the bottom.
The inscription reads:
Septimus hoc Presul romano culmine fretus Gregorius templum Xp[ist]o sacravit in aevum. Ad honorem D[omi]ni N[ostri] I[esu] [Ch]r[ist]i et Beat[a]e Mari[a]e semper Virginis Genetricis ej[us] Domine Nostre [sic] et om[n]ium s[an]c[t]or[um], consecratu[m] e[st] hoc altare te[m]pore Domni Gregorii VII P[a]p[ae], anni D[omi]ni Mil[le] LXXIII, indic[tione] XI, m[en]se julio, dies VIII. In hoc pr[a]edicto altare q[ui]escunt s[an]c[t]or[um] venerabliles reliq[ui]e, videlicet pars crucis ejus et spongi[a]e necn[on] et crucis b[eat]i Andree et ex ossib[us] ej[us] et s[an]c[t]or[um] mar[tyrum] Stephani, Lauren[tii], Marci, Iacobi, Sebastiani, Cromatii, Menne, Valentini, Bonifatii, Anastasii, Leudicii, Donati, Ippoliti et Iohanni Presbyteri, Agnetis, Cecilie, Agathe, Concordiae, Cirille, Vebrobie [sic].
This means: "Gregory, the seventh confident cultic leader at the Roman apex, made this temple holy for ever. In honour of our Lord Jesus Christ and the blessed Mary ever virgin and mother of our Lord and of all the saints, this altar was consecrated in the time of the lord Gregory VII Pontifex. In 1073, in the eleventh indiction, on the eighth day of the month of July in the abovementioned altar were laid relics of venerable saints, notably part of the Cross and the sponge, also parts of the cross of blessed Andrew and of his bones as well as of those of the holy martyrs Stephen, Laurence, Mark, James, Sebastian, Chromatius, Menas, Valentine, Boniface, Anastasius, Leudicus, Donatius, Hippolytus, John the Priest, Agnes, Cecilia, Agatha, Concordia, Cyril and Febrobia."
Side chapels Edit
At the end of the left hand aisle is the Blessed Sacrament chapel, with a depiction of the Supper at Emmaus.
At the end of the right hand aisle is a 17th century painting from the old church depicting the Vision of St Galla. This work has been attributed to Ludovico Gimignani, and shows the saint watching as Pope St Gregory the Great receives the miraculous icon of Santa Maria in Portico from heaven. This icon was venerated in the old church, and is still revered in the church of Santa Maria in Campitelli.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 7:30, 10:00 (not summer), 18:30;
Sundays and Solemnities 8:00, 10:30, 12:00 (not summer), 18:30.