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Santa Maria Regina Carmeli

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Santa Maria Regina Carmeli is a mid 20th century monastic chapel at Via del Casaletto 564 in the Gianicolense suburban district.

The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Carmel.

History Edit

The chapel is private, and belongs to an enclosed monastery of Polish Discalced Carmelite nuns. The full title of their congregation is "The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of the Order of the Blessed Virgin of Mount Carmel".

This order of nuns had been re-established in Poland in the 19th century with the help of Belgian communities, and the leading proponent was Mother Jadwiga-of-St-John-of-the Cross Wielhorska (her name can be found in an abridged form in English as "Hedwig of the Cross", and in Italian as Edwiga della Croce). A Polish noblewoman from a wealthy family, she had entered the Carmel at Carcassonne in France in 1857, but after profession went home to found a Carmel at Posen in Prussia (now Poznań). This community was expelled by the Prussians in 1875, and found a refuge in Cracow where it survives after many tribulations.

The Roman outreach was an initiative of Abbess Jadwiga. She purchased the church and convent of Santa Brigida a Campo de'Fiori in 1889, and paid for a complete restoration from her personal fortune. The Carmelite nuns were here until 1930, when they moved out and the complex was returned to the Bridgettine Order (the original owners).

Meanwhile, the nuns had built themselves a new convent at what is now the parish church of San Luigi Gonzaga in the Parioli quarter. This was begun in 1929, and finished in the following year. It occupied a restricted site, on a single city block. 

Back then, the quarter was just beginning its suburban development and the convent was surrounded by fields. Tragically, however, from mid-century the surrounding area was filled with apartment blocks which overlooked the convent from all sides. This was serious for the nuns, since papal enclosure meant that they did not leave the premises except in an emergency. The rather small garden lost all of its privacy. 

As a result, the nuns decided to build another new convent in a more suitable location. This was completed in 1957. The architect was allegedly Tullio Rossi, although the chapel does not look like his style. 

The nuns had the chapel restored recently, at a cost of eighty thousand euros. 

Layout Edit

The monastery is in extensive grounds, including large gardens, and is away from the street behind an estate wall.

The layout is traditional monastically. The actual enclosed area comprises four wings around a cloister with a garden garth, joined to form a square. This block has pitched and tiled roofs. Adjacent to the eastern wing is a parallel flat-roofed extern block, outside the enclosure and intended for interface with the outside world. The north-east corner of this is occupied by the sanctuary of the chapel, separated from the main monastery by a continuation of the extern wing along its back. On the other side of the sanctuary, to the north, is a sacristy wing which has its own pitched and tiled roof.

The plan of the chapel involves two perfect squares, a large one for the nave and a smaller one for the sanctuary.

Appearance Edit

Fabric Edit

The fabric comprises two adjacent reinforced concrete frames, the larger nave one having five bays and the smaller sanctuary having four.

The nave side walls each have seven concrete piers in a pale pinkish yellow, which support the roof. The tops of these are hidden by a hanging bargeboard in white, of two horizontal panels.

Each bay delineated by the pilasters has a complex design of four stacked zones. Beginning at the bottom, two-fifths of the height is infilled with thin pink bricks with recessed horizontal mortar joints, giving a striped effect. Then comes a horizontal beam joining the pilasters. Above this, the second zone is occupied by a recessed panel in the same colour as the pilasters, fronted by a raised honeycomb grid of hexagons in dark grey. The third zone looks as if it is panelled in pale brown wooden (?) slats, in a frame of thin metal rods in bright yellow. The lower part of this zone can be opened for ventilation. Above is a projecting canopy in the shape of an inverted V, supported on block corbels projecting from the piers, and which together give a zig-zag below the roofline. Finally, the fourth low zone is between these canopies and the bargeboard and is a textured surface in dark blue-green.

The sanctuary is abutted by convent accommodation, and has simple side walls. A row of horizontal rectangular windows is below the roofline, and above the convent wing on each side is a single window sheltered by a floating V-canopy.

Roof Edit

The chapel has two low domes, a large one for the nave and a small one for the sanctuary. Both rest on a roof in brick red, of four shallow pitches. The sanctuary dome is an octagon with four gabled double pitches in bright turquoise, the gable tips occupying the cardinal corners of the octagon. The gables shelter triangular windows.

The larger nave dome is in the same colour, but has a more complex set of pitches. Four additional thin flat triangular pitches have their outer angles at the cardinal corners of the octagon, and meet at a lantern on a square plan. The lantern is an octagonal prism of eight stained glass windows, sheltered by an overhanging cap edged with eight inverted V's and having a ball-and-cross finial.

This dome also has a large triangular window below each gable, in clear glass.

Façade Edit

The nave façade is spectacular. It has one storey, with a horizontal roofline occupied by a white bargeboard in the form of an entablature with modillions in its cornice and no architrave. There is a low plinth in the pinkish concrete, and in between this and the entablature the surface is textured in the blue-green colour which occurs under the roofline in the side elevations. On this background is laid rows of hexagonal honeycomb cells in dark grey, the rows alternating as single and double. Each hexagon contains a white hexagonal pyramidion. The lowest row, adjacent to the plinth, has its units in the form of V-topped rectangles -this shape is a motif in the chapel's design.

The entrance has a shallow porch with slightly battered (inwardly sloping sides) and a gabled top. It contains two adjacent doors with V-tops, over which is a relief sculpture of the Carmelite coat-of-arms.

Above the porch is a large and spectacular cog-wheel window based on a twelve-sided polygon, and containing a complex grid of mullions based on a hexagonal pattern.

Access Edit

The chapel is private, and there seems to be no public access at all. There are no views online of the interior (which is why there is no description of it here).

However, the façade can be viewed from the street through the convent gateway. If you are in the vicinity, it is worth taking a look.

External links Edit

Official diocesan web-page

Info.roma web-page

"Impresaccr" blog-page

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