Santa Maria Assunta e San Michele a Castel Romano comprises two churches in the Castel di Decima district.
The two churches are 18th century and late 20th century, the latter succeeding the former as the parish church.
The first church is at Via di Trigoria 301, in an entirely rural location -the actual Castel Romano. This was supplanted by the second church at Via Ettore Janni 31, in the suburb of Trigoria which is to the west of the Via Laurentina south of the Grande Raccordo Anulare. The old church is now apparently deconsecrated.
The two churches are over four kilometres apart.
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 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 the old one deconsecrated.
Old church Edit
The old church is not now accessible, 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 was 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 have almost certainly 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 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.
New church -exterior Edit
The plan is an irregular decagon, with three sides occupying the entrance frontage and two for each side wall with internal angles (so that the church is waisted). The final three sides are at the altar end, matching the entrance end except that the side behind the altar is shorter.
The roof is a complicated shape, with several pitches meeting at a point on the church's major axis a little nearer the entrance than the altar wall. Over the entrance is a high triangular gable, with its associated pitches running back. The altar wall has a similar arrangement, except that the angle is more acute. There is a slight gable over each waisted side wall. The eaves overhang these walls substantially, and are supported by concrete pillars. The walls themselves have their bottom halves in pale yellow-brown tufo blocks, and their top halves in window.
The entrance façade is recessed within the side walls, and has a sheltering canopy provided by the overhanging triangular gable, and the gable itself is occupied by clear glass. There is a horizontal concrete beam between this and the door, and two vertical pilasters supporting the gable. The door itself is in clear glass with an abstract pattern.
The gable over the altar also contains a large triangular window. Externally it is framed by two inverted V's in concrete, one behind the other, which together make up the campanile.
New church -interior Edit
The interior is dominated by the roof. Ten massive but thin beams in yellowish-grey reinforced concrete meet at a short cylindrical skylight, giving a star pattern. These beams spring from low slab piers of a hammer-head shape, formed by cutting an inner curve from a radially aligned vertical rectangular slab. Most of these slabs (not the ones at the cardinal side points) also have portals cut through them.
The walls are in the same yellowish tufo blocks as the outside, and the ceiling in between the beams is in white. The windows are all in clear glass.
Mass times are not being advertised online. In fact, the parish's online profile is poor overall -which nowadays is a bad sign.