Santa Maria Regina degli Apostoli alla Montagnola is a mid 20th century minor basilica, parish and titular church. It is situated at Via Antonino Pio 75 in the suburb of Montagnola, just south-east of San Paolo fuori le Mura. This is part of the Tor Marancia zone.
The dedication is to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of "Queen of the Apostles".
The church is often known as Regina Apostolorum, but this is the title of the cardinalate. It can cause confusion with the church of Santa Maria Regina Apostolorum.
Plans to build the church were made before the Second World War by Blessed Giacomo Alberione, the founder of the Society of St Paul. Construction should have started in 1943, but because of the Allied bombing of the Roman suburbs, it was delayed until after the end of the war.
Construction finally started in 1945, and the church was consecrated in November 1954. The architect responsible was Leone Favini, a native Roman, who worked with the engineer Giuseppe Forneris. The architectural inspiration was the Roman Baroque style, but executed with modern techniques and having a modern flavour.
As a parish church, it is served by priests of the Society of St Paul. The General Curia or headquarters of the Society is here, as well as a convent of the Daughters of St Paul which is the equivalent society for women.
Blessed Pope Paul VI established the church as a cardinalate title in 1965. There have been three titulars since then. The next to last one was Virgilio Noè, who died in 2011. John Tong Hon was appointed in the following year.
Layout and fabric Edit
This is one of the largest modern churches in Rome, in terms of volume rather than floorspace. The height of the edifice is almost as great as its width, giving it grandeur. The church is constructed on a modified Greek cross plan, superimposed on a smaller square. The transept arms are shortest, the sanctuary arm is slightly longer and the nave arm is slightly longer again. The square in the plan gives rise to right-angled projections in the inner angles of the cross, rising to the full height of the walls on either side.
The main exterior walls are in yellowish-pink brick, and are mostly blank except for a round window high up at the end of each cross arm including the entrance (the one in the sanctuary end is bricked up). Each end has its brickwork patterned with two pairs of shallow blind pilasters enclosing a central zone where the brickwork is divided into horizontal rectangular panels by scored lines. This feature re-occurs in the cross arm side walls. The square projections in the inner angles have a vertical row of three rectangular windows on each face.
The roof is flat, and now has an ugly metal guard rail all along its edge for safety. The roofline is marked by a deep entablature in white, with a slightly projecting cornice.
From the front, it is not immediately obvious that the church sits on a high ground-level crypt. If you look round the back (there is a driveway off the Via Elvio Pertinace), you will see that this is in concrete. It contains large narrow arches, some filled in with brick and some left open as recesses. At the altar end there are two open arches flanking a central one which contains a shrine to Our Lady with a statue of the Madonna and Child.
On the roofline of the same far wall is a little campanile or bellcote, in a vaguely Baroque style with an arched opening for one bell. Presumably this was intended as a sanctuary bell for use during Mass. There is no separate tower campanile (was one planned?), but the church has a carillon which plays at midday.
The dome is spectacular, and has a telescoped drum in white concrete of five cylinder storeys of differing heights and decreasing diameter.
Firstly, there is a low circular platform. On this is a storey with eight round windows, like portholes. Then follows another low platform, on which sits the main storey which has twenty large, narrow rectangular recessed windows rising from the platform almost the full height of the storey. These windows have tall sloping lintels, and are separated by pairs of pilasters with plate imposts instead of capitals. Then another low platform, and finally the actual dome which is a saucer in copper. It bears a tall lantern in the form of a round temple having slit windows separated by little pilasters, with a conical cap also in copper bearing a ball and cross finial.
The entrance is equally spectacular, because the extra length of that cross arm is taken up by an open propylaeumrising to the full height of the main edifice. It is simply designed, with two pairs of enormous unadorned brick pilasters flanking the entrance portal and supporting an extension of the entablature running round the roofline of the church. However, the propylaeum is distinguished by being slightly narrower than the church frontage behind it. On its entablature is the inscription B. V. M. Reginae Apostolorum.
In between each pilaster pair is a small side entrance door. The main entrance is enormous, and has a doorcase of three nested frames in dark grey with the inner one embellished with yellow rectangles. Above is a recessed rectangular panel with a fresco of the Apostles venerating the Madonna and Child, and above that is a round window with fenestration in the form of two superimposed crosses (vertical and diagonal).
The church has a long formal drive, with an avenue of trees leading you to the entrance beyond a street gateway.
The church has three levels: Sub-crypt, crypt and the actual church. The founder, Bl Giacomo Alberione, designed the layout with the intention that the three sacred spaces would together proclaim the participation of Our Lady in the historical redemptive activity of Christ. So, the overall theme in the decorations (mosaics, frescoes and sculptures), is based on scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin.
Main church Edit
The layout is that of a Greek cross, with two bays in each arm, and is dominated by the central dome. This has a very wide oculus, and rests directly on a ring cornice supported by four pendentives. These pendentives are supported in turn by four massive piers with diagonally facing inner surfaces, so that the lower corners of the pendentives are truncated. The dome itself has a fresco of Our Lady Venerated by the Host of Heaven, and the pendentives show her in four attributes of redemption (helpfully labelled): Immaculate Conception, Ever Virgin, Mother of God and Assumption. These frescoes were executed by Antonio Giuseppe Santagata, and finished in 1957 in an attractive realistic style obviously influenced by the famous fresco at Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.
The inner faces of the piers each have a doorway, over which is a cantoria for solo musicians. The balcony of this does not protrude. The hidden rooms behind these features occupy the square-plan units that you saw in the inner corners of the church exterior. The corners of the inner face of each pier are revetted with polished travertine limestone slabs forming blind pilasters, and the same decorative element of a pair of pilasters is provided for the sides of each pier which are also the sides of the first bays of the cross arms. These pilasters support an entablature in a darker brown stone, which runs round the interior except where it is interrupted by an arch enclosing a round window in the far wall of each cross arm. On the frieze of the entablature is an inscription in gilded lettering, based on the Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14: In cenaculum ascenderunt, ubi manebant et Petrus et Ioannes et Iacobus at Andreas, Philippus et Thomas, Bartholomeus et Mattheus, Iacobus Alphaei et Simon Zelotes et Iudas Iacobi. Hi omnes erant perseverantes unanimiter in oratione cum mulieribus et Maria matre Iesu et fratribus eius.
Undecorated wall and ceiling surfaces are in a cream colour mostly overall.
The side pilasters of the piers protrude slightly, and support plain barrel vaults over the first bays of the cross side arms. These vaults are bounded by a pair of wide ribs each. The far bays of the arms have their own vaults, slightly higher and with plain square coffers.
The round-headed mosaic altarpiece over the high altar depicts the Coronation of the Virgin. The side cross arms have two other altars, with similar round-headed altarpieces on the far walls. To the left is the Sacred Heart, and to the right St Paul. The latter altar is more highly decorated, with green marble and with bas-reliefs of four saints flanking the main depiction.
The artworks in the crypt depict the redemptive moments in the life of Our Lady on earth (as compared to those of her heavenly, exalted state depicted in the main church).
There are three notable tombs in the sub-crypt, those of Blessed Giacomo Alberione S.S.P., which since his beatification in 2003 is a shrine. Also buried here are Sister Tecla Merlo, who founded the sisterhood and has been declared Venerable, and Blessed Timoteo Giaccardo S.S.P. (1894-1948) who was beatified in 1989.
The mosaic altarpiece represents The Trinity.
Access and liturgyEdit
The bus for this church is the 715. This starts at the Teatro Marcello, but it is much quicker to get the metro to San Paolo and pick it up at the Largo Leonardo da Vinci just to the east of the station. Actually, the church is near enough for you to walk from San Paolo; go south from the Largo, and turn second left. If you do take the bus, it does a loop at its terminus and runs down the Via Antonino Pio on its way back. In other words, don't get off when everybody else does at the terminus, which is Tiberio Imperatore.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:00, 16:30 (not July, August), 18:00 (19:00 July, August);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00 (not July, August), 11:30, 18:00 (19:00 July, August).
The house chapel of the Paulist convent is also used as a public parish Mass centre: