Santa Maria Assunta e San Michele a Castel Romano is an 18th century former parish church at Via di Trigora 301 in the Castel di Decima district.
Old church Edit
The old church stands on the site of an old farmstead or Casale. The first documentary reference is from 996, when the extensive property was the possession of the monastery of Sant'Alessio all'Aventino.
In 1730, the Sacchetti family sold the estate to Cardinal Giulio Alberoni, who immediately built a palatial villa here the main edifice of which incorporated a church. This was consecrated in 1731. However, in 1740 he retired to Piacenza where he founded a seminary for poor boys at San Lazzaro -this became the Collegio Alberoni.
The villa has been referred to as the Palazzo Alberoni, which is confusing since it should be Villa Alberoni but this would cause further confusion with a more familiar building on the Via Nomentana.
In 1750, just before the cardinal's death in 1752, the church was formally established as an arcipretura curata of the cathedral of Sant'Aurea a Ostia Antica, and the Augustinian friars were put in charge of the enormous, entirely rural, thinly populated parish territory.
When the cardinal died, the property was left to the Collegio Alberoni and this in turn came under Propaganda Fide. The villa went back to being a farmstead, with the gardens being lost.
In 1896 there was a restoration after an earthquake damaged the church. The architect was Etorre Bonelli. The edifice bears a marble tablet recording this.
The region was still completely rural when the curacy was transferred to the diocese of Rome in 1948. This coincided with the beginning of suburban development, much of it illegal and very messy, which led to the diffuse neighbourhoods of Selcetta, Trigòria (these two not well distinguished), Borgata Trigòria and Trigòria Alta. None of these was near the church.
The friars left in 1975, handing over the parish to diocesan clergy.
New church Edit
The location of the old church, in a rural setting next to a forest where no suburban development was going to be allowed, became very inconvenient. This was especially so since the local bus service did not run anywhere near it.
So, a new church was commissioned in 1983 to a design by Carlo Colonna, and became the parish church. The parish kept the old name, but the new church has a different dedication: Santa Paola Frassinetti.
The two churches are over four kilometres apart. Despite its having limited pastoral justification, the old church is being kept in use for now with one Mass on Sundays.
The old church is not now accessible except when open for Mass, and is not easy to find. It is up the third driveway (securely gated) on the right, going north-east on the Via di Trigoria from the Castel Romano road junction and the industrial park.
The surviving villa building is a long rectangular three-storey block with a pitched, tiled and hipped roof. The originally pale orange render has greyed out, and the edifice looks rather grim and uncared-for.
The church is not a separate edifice, but was on the ground floor on the left hand side (the block is perpendicular to the road, so this is the end nearest to the latter). It has left an entrance with a molded doorcase and an oversized triangular pediment. An epigraph over the lintel reads: Domus mea domus orationis ("My house is a house of prayer").
Two little elliptical majolica plaques used to hang on the wall either side of the door, the right hand one having a portrait of Our Lady (Ecco tua madre), but this might have been taken away. They were in a pair of vertical rectangular panels with raised frames, which looked as if they were intended for frescoes.
There used to be a brick campanile on the left hand edge of the building, a cuboid with a round-headed soundhole on each face and a tiled pyramidal cap. This has been removed and the roof made good.
The altarpiece is (or used to be) a very typical (but enjoyable) 18th century round-headed painting of Our Lady being carried into heaven by a mob of putti.
Mass is celebrated, according to the parish website (June 2018):
Sundays and Solemnities (only) at 9:00.