Santa Maria Mater Orphanorum a Casal Morena is a late 20th century convent and public chapel located at Via di Casal Morena 12, which is in the zone of Casal Morena in between the Via Tuscolana and the Via Anagnina.
The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her special title of "Mother of Orphans".
In the 17th century, the Roman headquarters of the Clerks Regular of Somascha was established at San Nicola dei Cesarini, However, the complex was demolished in 1929 and the Generalate was moved to Sant'Alessio all'Aventino.
In the later 20th century it was decided to build a new Generalate in Casal Moreno, near the parish church of San Girolamo Emiliani which was in the charge of the Clerks Regular. The dedication chosen for the chapel, "Mother of Orphans", was because the founder of the Clerks, St Jerome Emiliani, had a great devotion to the care of orphans and abandoned children (he is their official patron saint).
The writer has not been able to find out the exact date of construction, nor the name of the architect.
Layout and fabric Edit
The chapel is a substantial building, on a rectangular plan with a pair of segmental apses midway along each side wall. The sanctuary is a semicircular apse, narrower and lower than the single nave. Above it in the gable is a small round window.
A separate convent block is attached to the far left hand corner, and the main convent range abuts to the right hand side. These have access to the church via lobbies to the left and right of the sanctuary -the one on the left is in the shape of a quarter of a cylinder.
The fabric is in reinforced concrete, with the exterior walls in a very pale pink and roof eaves in white. The side wall eaves are deeper than those of the end walls. The side wall apses each have a row of four narrow vertical rectangular windows running down from the eaves, the outer two being shorter than the middle ones. The eaves protrude above the actual roofline, giving a low parapet.
The roof itself is double-pitched from a ridge-line on the major axis, with the pitches being incurved giving the appearance of an open paperback book laid page-down. The ridge-line is rounded off, and the near length sports a skylight strip.
The chapel façade is very unusual. Firstly, there is a round window with a grey concrete frame in the gable, identical to that behind the altar. Then there is a public doorway in the far left hand side of the façade, with a matching frame doorcase having a slightly curved lintel. Immediately to the right of this is an external chapel in the form of a quarter-cylinder, which joins onto the tower campanile to the right of the church. This has two vertical rectangular windows, and a second identical doorway to the far right.
The flat roof of the chapel is extended as a canopy in the form of a quarter-ring supported by three simple grey concrete columns. The far left hand edge of this canopy protrudes slightly to the left of the left hand side wall of the church.
The tower campanile is a tall, thin white concrete monolith with a cross finial attached to one side at the top. The lower part of this is wrapped around by two vertical concrete shells, one at the front and one to the side. These are separated by a thin slit, and their tops slope together upwards in one line from left to right. The front shell has four narrow rectangular slots imitating the church windows in the side apses. The side shell joins onto the tower via a horizontal beam.
The altar is not in the sanctuary apse, but in front of it. The apse contains moveable seating for the ministers, and five large icons in a strict Byzantine style. These comprise Christ in Majesty, accompanied by Our Lady, St John the Baptist, St Michael and St Gabriel.
The paintwork is mostly in white, but a bright orange is also used especially in the apse and on the wall above it.
Apparently the chapel has old paintings illustrating scenes from the life of St Jerome Emiliani.
According to an unofficial source, a public Mass is celebrated at 9:30 on Sundays and Solemnities.
(The online profile of the Generalate is surprisingly poor.)