Santa Maria Regina Pacis a Ostia Lido is an early 20th century parish and titular church at Piazza Regina Pacis 13, in the centre of Lido di Ostia near where the Via di Mare meets the sea. The quarter is Lido di Ostia Levante. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.
The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of "Queen of Peace". It may be noted that the Diocese of Rome uses the Marian title Regina Pacis which is Latin, and not Regina della Pace which is the Italian.
It is possible to confuse the church with Santa Maria Regina Pacis a Monte Verde.
Until 1884, nobody lived around here at all except wetland wildlife and lots of malaria mosquitoes. In that year, a massive government project was begun to drain the marshes and convert them to farmland and this is regarded as the beginning of the settlement.
However, the seaside resort was mostly the creation of the Fascist government. The electric railway from Rome was opened in 1924, and the main road (the Via del Mare) in 1927, enabling ordinary Romans to go to the seaside with ease. The place now has a population of almost a hundred thousand, and is one of the largest settlements in Italy without an administrative identity. It could quite easily function as an independent town.
Foundation motivation Edit
The large, impressive and important church was originally conceived in 1916 as a votive offering to Our Lady, in order to invoke her help in ending the First World War and so bring peace. Italy had become bogged down in an extremely destructive military campaign against Austria-Hungary on the Italian Front, which the country was in danger of losing. Also, Pope Benedict XV was dismayed at the suffering caused by the war overall, and instigated the addition of the title Regina pacis ("queen of peace") to the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The name Ostia is generating serious confusion in modern sources. It refers to four geographical entities:
Ostia. This is a famously well-preserved ruined port city of ancient Rome, and is the original location of the suburbican diocese of Ostia. It is also confusingly referred to as "Ostia Antica" (see next entry).
Borgo di Ostia Antica. This is the little mediaeval village which replaced the port city, huddled around a castle and the little diocesan cathedral of Sant'Aurea a Ostia Antica. It was called simply "Ostia Antica" for centuries, as the city was buried beneath sand-dunes and forgotten until the 19th century. If you see a reference in a printed source to "Ostia" before then, it refers to this place.
Ostia Antica. This is the thirty-fifth zone of the city, and includes the ruined city and village as well as some ugly suburbs and a railway station.
Lido di Ostia. The seaside resort is also being called "Ostia Lido" and, very confusingly, "Ostia". You may also find "Lido di Roma", which was a name imposed by the Fascists in 1933.
There were problems with beginning the church. Work only started in 1919, and was finished in 1928. Initially it was intended for the Augustinian friars based at Sant'Aurea a Ostia Antica to take over, but something went wrong and the completed church was entrusted to the Pallotines (Society of the Catholic Apostolate) who are still in charge.
It remains the central church of Lido di Ostia. When it was begun, the place was a small village although it was growing very quickly by the time the church was finished. The scale is impressive, and those who know of the existence of the suburbican diocese of Ostia could easily make the error of thinking that this is the cathedral. It never has been, and Sant'Aurea still has that dignity.
However, the diocese of Ostia only achieved modern existence in 1914 when it was split from the diocese of Velletri. It might have been expected that it would then develop as a normal diocese independent of that of Rome, with this church as the cathedral. This never happened, and one can wonder as to why. See Sant'Aurea a Ostia Antica for more details on the strange career of the diocese -which has four parishes not including this one!
Recent work Edit
In the period 1977 to 1980, a team of three local artists named Mario Rosati, Romeo Magnani and Alberto Cantoni executed some frescoes in the sanctuary and the right hand transept chapel.
A thorough restoration of the church was completed in 2008. Included in this was the provision of a good set of stained glass windows, having a total of nine (four around the main entrance, two at the side entrances and two in the apse).
Subsequently the parish decided to get rid of the late Seventies frescoes in the apse mentioned above, and some were removed in 2009. This has caused controversy, but at the time of writing (2015) the rest might have gone. The stated motivation is that they are in a style out of keeping with the neo-Baroque design of the church, but they may also be a political dimension (see the description of them below).
The church was made titular in 1973, and the present cardinal priest is Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya.
The church was provided with a formal civic layout. The site chosen was immediately to the east of the old terminal station, which was closed when the railway was extended eastwards to Castel Fusano (the Piazza della Stazione Vecchia is a reminder of its former existence). A monumental stepped cobbled ramp ascends from a semi-circular bay on the Corso Regina Maria Pia, and is flanked by municipal gardens. It ends in the rectangular Piazza Regina Pacis, immediately in front of the church. Unfortunately a side street runs through the piazza, and the latter is used for parking -stupid.
Layout and fabric Edit
The church was designed by Giulio Magni, on the plan of a Latin cross having a central nave with structural side aisles and an octagonal dome over the crossing. An apsidal sanctuary follows. This is a superb example of a great neo-Baroque (barocchetto) basilical church, and one of the last to be built before the style fell out of fashion.
The church is 56m long, and 21m wide.
The layout is reflected in the roofing arrangements. Firstly there is a shallow entrance bay, flanked by two self-contained rectangular chapels at the bottoms of the structural side aisles. These have their own double-pitched roofs, with hips, slightly higher than the side aisles. These chapels are slightly wider than the aisles beyond them
Then comes the nave of three main bays, with a gabled tiled roof and lower single-pitched roofs for the side aisles (these aisles are divided into side chapels by blocking walls within). A shallow side-entrance bay follows, flanked by a pair of entrance lobbies at the ends of the aisles. These each have a shallow-pitched roof with a diagonal roofline, higher than the aisle, and each is slightly wider than the aisle.
There follows the transept, with a dome over the crossing and a pitched and hipped roof on either side. Attached to each end of the transept is an external side chapel, with a lower single-pitched roof.
The sanctuary has a single bay with its own pitched roof, and is flanked by a pair of sacristies mirroring the side entrance lobbies mentioned. Finally, there is a five-sided polygonal apse with a roof in triangular sectors.
A tower campanile stands in the near angle between the right hand end of the transept and its external chapel.
The fabric is in red brick (of a deeper shade than most 20th century Roman churches in brick), with travertine limestone for the architectural details.
The façade has one storey, and three vertical zones corresponding to the ends of the central nave and the chambers at the bottoms of the side aisles.
The central nave frontage itself has three vertical zones, the side ones being narrower. Each of these latter zones is occupied by a pair of deep Siamese-twin brick pilasters with derivative Corinthian capitals, which are joined at the bottom immediately above their shared high brick and stone base. This itself stands on a tall foundation plinth in concrete with two courses of stone (the top one molded) on top.
The pilasters support a crowning triangular pediment decorated along its cornice and gable with modillions (little brackets), and with a relief coat-of-arms of Pope Pius XI in the tympanum. The frieze of the entablature bears a dedicatory inscription: Pax Christi in regno Christi ("The peace of Christ is in the kingdom of Christ").
The wide middle zone of the central nave frontage contains the single entrance. This is flanked by a pair of Ionic columns standing against the pilaster pairs just mentioned. The foundation plinths on which these stands are taller than those under the pilasters, but of the same style. The columns support a pair of molded imposts, which are run behind the pilasters as short string courses. From the imposts springs a very large semi-circular molded archivolt which touches the crowning entablature and has a strap corbel on its keystone. This
The entrance has a molded doorcase with a slightly oversized triangular pediment. Above this is a relief coat-of-arms of Cardinal Vincenzo Vannutelli, and above this in turn is a very large window fitted into the arch. This has two wide mullions in brick and stone, which divide the window into a central wide fenestration and two side strips. The latter drop to the level of the coat-of-arms, giving an odd shape. This design feature was inspired by Santa Maria degli Angeli.
The doorway is approached by a flight of steps.
The side aisle frontages are in blank brickwork with a single vertical rectangular window each, but the brickwork is enlivened by several courses being laid in a herringbone pattern towards the rooflines. The latter are occupied by entablatures consisting of continuations of the central arch imposts mentioned above.
Exterior wall fabric Edit
If you look round the sides of the church, you will see that the lateral zones of the façade are replicated in the first bay forming a square kiosk on each side. Above each of these is a pair of Corinthian pilasters, one at the corner and one at the other end of the bay.
Then comes the side aisle, divided into three bays by Doric pilasters which are continued over the roof as buttresses for the central nave walls. Each of the three wall panels thus created has a blank white rectangular tablet towards the top, flanked by four rather fussy brick and stone pilasterettes. The three rooflines each have a projecting stone cornice above a frieze and architrave in brick.
The central nave walls above the aisles each have three arches resembling that in the façade, with fenestration to match. However, the archivolts are in brick with dentillations instead of in molded stone. The roofline has a projecting cornice with modillions.
Down each side there follows a square kiosk like the one flanking the main entrance, which is over the side entrance here. Then the end of the transept with its external chapel, over which is a large arched window like those in the central nave side walls. Round the back, the three back walls of the apse each have a vertical rectangular window (the central one is blocked), above which is a decorative brickwork panel based on a large lozenge. The end of the sanctuary above the apse has a triangular pediment.
The drum of the dome is octagonal, in ashlar stone with an entablature which is posted out over the corners. Each face has a large recessed rectangular window, flanked by a pair of Doric columns supporting the entablature. The corners have unusual finials, each in the form of a molded rainbow-arc defaced by a cross.
The dome itself sits on a low attic plinth above the entablature. It is hemispheroidal, with ribs, and is in lead. There is a lantern, with eight blind pilasters supporting a cog-wheel cornice and its own ogee cupola in lead. A ball-and-cross finial crowns it.
Dimensions are 42 high, 12m across.
The tower campanile is attached to the near side of the right hand transept chapel for most of its height. Up to the bell-chamber, it is a simple brick structure on a square plan with some large vertical rectangular windows and random quoins in stone. Below the bell-chamber a clock is housed. The bell-chamber itself is separated from the rest of the tower by a simple string-course, and has a large arched sound-hole on each face, the arch archivolts springing from Doric imposts. There is a tiled pyramidal cap.
Entrance vestibule Edit
On entering, you are in a shallow vestibule under the organ gallery, which has a horizontal balustrade supported by a pair of Corinthian columns in white. Above the organ is the large window that you saw in the façade, which has stained glass in a swirling orange, red, white, yellow and blue design centred on a chi-rho symbol.
A pair of chambers flank the vestibule, which in the original design would have been the baptistery (the font is now near the high altar) and the custodian's chamber. Each has two good stained glass windows. To the left these show St Augustine of Hippo and Pope St John Paul II, and to the right are St Vincent Pallotti and Blessed Pope Paul VI.
The restrained interior is neo-Baroque in style, painted overall in yellow with white detailing.
The side aisles are divided into three chapels on each side by blocking walls. They are entered through arcades, which have archivolts springing from broad Doric imposts. The impost piers and intradoses each have a recessed panel in yellow.
The arcade piers have Corinthian semi-columns attached, which support molded posts which in turn support transverse ribs dividing the otherwise plain barrel vault into bays. These posts also provide the springers for archivolts enclosing the large lunette windows in the central aisle walls, three on each side with the fenestration of each divided into three by broad vertical mullions (like the window in the façade). The vault has shallow lunettes above these windows, three on each side.
Beyond the three main bays is a further fourth, shallow side-entrance bay. Instead of an arcade arch, each side has a rectangular portal topped by a raised and projecting triangular pediment. These portals lead into little entrance lobbies. Above, each side has an upper archivolt and lunette like the main bays but no window.
The transept is dominated by the dome, which rests on massive piers with diagonal inner faces. There is a large chapel on each side (see below for description). The space is being used as an extension of the congregational seating arrangements in the nave.
The pediments bear frescoes of The Evangelists by Alberto Cantoni, part of the work done by local artists between 1977 and 1980. The four figures are identifiable by the silhouettes behind -a lion for St Mark, an eagle for St John, angel's wings for St Matthew and an ox's horns for St Luke.
The interior of the dome has no figurative decoration. The drum is in yellow and white like the rest of the interior, as is the underside of the dome itself which has eight ribs meeting an an annulus in which is the octagonal lantern oculus.
The sanctuary has a raised floor, approached by four steps.
The enormous polychrome marble Baroque altar aedicule remains in place. It is in grey and pale lilac stones, with a pair of red porphyry Corinthian columns having gilded bronze bases and capitals. These support a segmental pediment above a posted entablature, and stand on box plinths raised well above floor level on tall sub-plinths revetted in red stone.
The altarpiece is a polychrome painted statue of the Mother and Child, in a round-headed niche coloured in gold.
The actual altar has been brought forward to allow Mass to be celebrated facing the congregation. It has a frontal revetted in alabaster. The tabernacle for the Blessed Sacrament remains in the aedicule.
Flanking the aedicule is a pair of vertical rectangular stained glass windows, semi-abstract on the apparent theme of Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Apse frescoes Edit
Tragically, the apse frescoes painted between 1977 and 1980 have become the object of serious dislike on the part of the parish, and might have gone altogether by the time you read this (2015). The figures represented are based on ordinary people -peasants or workers. This is an allusion to the original inhabitants of the Lido, who were peasant families from around Ravenna brought in to help drain and cultivate the local marshes in the late 19th century. Perhaps the present inhabitants would like to overlook this (terrone is an insult in modern Italy).
The apse conch has a fresco of The Deposition of Christ, by Mario Rosati. This is a stylistically naïve work, using blocks of colour in acrylic paint, but is iconographically sophisticated. Our Lady is shown mourning over Christ's body after its removal from the Cross, but the pair of them are also a representation of a lower-class woman mourning over the violent death of her man. Ten other figures, men and women, stand or kneel in attendance. The Cross is shown as part of the Tree of Life -at that moment withered, before the Resurrection. The conch background is in pale blue, contrasting with the usual yellow, with white ribs.
In the sides of the sanctuary bay in front of the apse used to be two figures painted by Romeo Magnani, entitled Il Popolani or "The Common Men". These were shown in standing positions of respect, facing the (old) altar. The limbs, especially the hands, were exaggerated in order to emphasize the manual nature of their lives. The same artist also painted some Doves of Peace on the apse wall. All his work was removed in 2009 -an enormous shame.
Side chapels Edit
The chapels are described anticlockwise, starting from the bottom right. The altar aedicules are in authentic Baroque designs, apparently in polychrome marbles (although a lot of the work is actually faked up in plaster, which provides a caveat for the descriptions below).
The first chapel on the right is dedicated to St Anthony of Padua. It has a statue of him with the Christ-child, standing in a niche in the aedicule. The latter has a pair of Corinthian pilasters in a pale grey marble, supporting a segmental pediment with what looks like an alabaster panel in its tympanum. The statue niche is surrounded by revetting in a pale orange breccia.
The second chapel on the right is dedicated to St Teresa of Liseux, and has a poor and faded painting of her dropping roses from heaven. The round-headed altarpiece is surrounded by revetting in pavonazzetto marble, and the aedicule has a pair of ribbed Composite pilasters supporting a triangular pediment.
The third chapel on the right is perhaps dedicated to Our Lady of Pompei, and has a copy of the famous icon venerated at her shrine near Naples. Above is a smaller icon in a glory, difficult to make out (a holy bishop). These two pieces obviously replaced a much larger round-headed altarpiece. The aedicule is very impressive, in red and yellow marbles with a plaque showing the Dove of the Holy Spirit inserted into a split triangular pediment. This plaque has its own segmental pediment, broken at the top. The altar frontal has polychrome stone pietra dura work.
Then comes the right hand side entrance lobby. An attractive 20th century picture of Our Lady Freeing Souls from Purgatory is now hung here. Over the entrance door is a stained glass window showing Bl Józef Jankowski, a Pallottine priest martyred at Auschwitz. The background shows barbed wire and a crematorium chimney.
The right end transept chapel is dedicated to St Vincent Pallotti. It is a large rectangular niche, entered via three steps up and with two large free-standing Corinthian columns at the entrance. Unfortunately the aedicule was chopped down in 1978 and replaced with a painting by Mario Rosati which occupies the entire far wall. The theme of the work is St Vincent inspiring the hierarchy of the Church as regards the evangelization of ordinary people (the scenes of peasant life in the upper register is another allusion to the original foundation of the Lido as an agricultural colony). The surviving altar has alabaster inlays.
The left hand transept chapel has the same design, but the polychrome marble aedicule here survives. It is dedicated to the Sacred Heart, with a large altarpiece painting of the late 19th century. Between this chapel and the sanctuary is a niche containing a traditional painted wooden crucifix, and a good lifelike modern statue of St Pio of Pietrelcina.
The side entrance lobby on the left has a good modern picture of the Nativity. Here also is a stained glass window showing Bl Józef Stanek, another Polish Pallottine priest martyred by the Nazis.
The third nave side chapel on the left is dedicated to St Joseph, with an altarpiece depicting him in glory with the Christ-child. The entablature of the aedicule bears the text Ite ad Ioseph, "Go to Joseph", which is actually a statement by Pharaoh in the Book of Genesis (Gn 41:55). The unusual pediment looks segmental, but the curve is actually parabolic.
The second chapel on the left is dedicated to St Augustine. The altarpiece shows him having a famous conversation at Ostia with his mother St Monica, immediately before she contracted malaria and died there.
The first chapel on the left is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, with a painted plaster Pietà within the aedicule niche. To the left is a memorial to the politician and engineer Paolo Orlando 1942, together with his wife the countess Alda Piola Caselli. He was instrumental in the project to drain the marshes and found the town of the Lido. He also hoped to build a seaport here and dig a ship canal along the Tiber to Rome, but these more useful proposals never came about and Rome has relied on Civitavecchia as its port to the present day. Above the monument, which has a good relief bust, is a schematic map which shows the river and the proposed port and canal.
Mass is celebrated (parish website, July 2018):
Weekdays 9:00, 18:00 (18:30 July and August);
Sundays and Solemnities 7:30, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00 (11:30 July and August), 12:00 (not July and August), 18:00 (18:30 July and August).
In addition, from January to March only there has been an English-language Mass on Sundays at 16:00. This was for the Filipino expatriate community in the parish.