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Santa Maria del Rosario e San Pietro Chanel was a 19th century convent church, now a chapel, in the parish of Sacro Cuore di Gesù a Castro Pretorio. It is at Via Cernaia 14/B, which is in the rione Castro Pretorio. A picture of the church at Wikimedia Commons is here.
The church was built to serve the Provincial Curia at Rome of the Marist Fathers, who also ran an international college which was adjacent. It was also a centre of devotion to Our Lady of Pompeii, the main shrine to whom is close to the famous ruined city near Naples. This dedication was because there used to be a little shrine to her in the nearby street of Via Palestro, which had been erected when the suburban area was first laid out after 1870.
The architect was Pio Piacentini, who used an original design executed by a French Marist called L. Desroziers in 1886. The result is in a monumental neo-Baroque style, and was completed in 1898.
According to the Diocese the church was closed (soppressa) in 2006, and has been deleted from the diocesan website.
The General Curia of the Society of Mary (Marist Fathers) is at Via Alessandro Poerio 63.
The former convent has been restored as a "boutique guest house" (actually, a very grand hotel) principally for Australian pilgrims and visitors to Rome. The work involved the complete and meticulous restoration of the church, which has been cleaned outside and had its décor inside restored. Artworks appealing to Australian and Oceanic devotional interests have been added, and on re-consecration the dedication was changed to Our Lady of the Rosary and St Peter Chanel (the protomartyr of Oceania).
The refurbished chapel (no longer a church, apparently) was re-opened in 2011. The project was undertaken by the dioceses of Australia, and is owned by the Church there. The cost was thirty million Australian dollars.
Latinists wishing to point out that Domus Australiae is correct are asked not to be tiresome; advisers were paid good money to come to the conclusion that the hotel wouldn't want the Australians to be confused thereby. Latin in Australia is your stomach after you've drunk a milky coffee.
The impressive, hulking and now clean pink brick edifice is on a corner site, and is on a rectangular plan. Structurally it amounts to a nave with side aisles, and no external apse.
The edifice has two distinct architectural storeys, separated by an entablature that runs round the building. There are a few stone details. The ornate entrance has a pair of flanking pilasters, an archway with tympanum and a gable, this being inserted into a very high plinth which bears three pairs of Doric pilasters in brick running up to the first entablature. The frieze of this over the entrance bears a dedicatory inscription to Our Lady, and is topped by a projecting cornice supported by corbels. In between the pilasters the brickwork is decorated, notably by a horizontal band bearing a zig-zag.
The second storey of the façade is in the form of a Classical temple, with two pairs of Ionic pilasters breaking through a second entablature to support a third one. The frieze of the latter has another dedicatory inscription, to the Rosary. Above it is a cornice in the same style as before, then a triangular pediment with a relief sculpture in its tympanum. The central part of the nave roof is higher than those on either side, and this third cornice edges it. The second cornice, previously mentioned, runs over the top of a round-headed window in the middle of the second storey of the façade and then forms the roofline along the sides of the church. Either side of the temple motif in the second storey of the façade is a bell chamber with a pair of round pilasters in stone with capitals, matching those flanking the round-headed façade window. The sound-holes of these are keyhole-shaped.
As mentioned the plan is a nave with aisles, having four bays. The arcades have wide rectangular pillars, and the aisles behind these are divided into three chapels on each side by double parallel blocking walls. These paired walls do not reach the pillars, meaning that there was access between the chapels. The pillars each have a pair of shallow ribbed pilasters on high plinths and with capitals in a "sort-of" Composite style displaying a cross-medallion each.
These pilasters support an entablature which runs round the interior, the cornice of which has modillions and the frieze of which has the Marian antiphon Salve Regina on a blue background.
The barrel-vaulted ceiling has four lunettes for windows on each side. In between the lunettes are angels, and swags of olive branches. The ceiling in between the lunettes is in pale blue, and bears a fresco of a large cross in ochre yellow and decorated in a vaguely Celtic style. This bears tondi showing scenes from the Mysteries of the Rosary. This delicate and attractive work was by an artist named Sacco, who also executed the presbyterium vault frescoes.
The sanctuary is entered through a narrow fifth bay, amounts to a double triumphal arch supported by two pairs of columns in what looks like a flesh-coloured marble with capitals imitating those of the nave pilasters. The vault shows God the Father.
There is an apse with a conch, having a blind arcade of three arches separated by more double pilasters. The central arch used to contain the main altarpiece, which was a copy of the original venerated image of Our Lady of Pompei. It had the Madonna and Child being venerated by SS Dominic and Catherine of Siena, but has been replaced by a bronze crucifix by Louis Laumen (see his website in "External links").
The conch shows the Mother and Child in a mandorla, flanked by a pair of venerating saints in between four palm trees. The Dove of the Holy Spirit is in the apex.
The "Ambo of the Apostles" (lectern) to the left of the present high altar is by Nigel Boonham (who also has a website).
The crucifix is flanked by a pair of pictures in an attractive and refreshing neo-realist style, a welcome diversion from the talent-minimalist and semi-abstract stuff that dominated western religious art in the second half of the last century. They are two of a commission of thirty-two works for which the artist Paul Newton received a commission when the church was restored. Here, on the left is Our Lady of the Southern Cross (superb), and on the right The First Catholics of Sydney.
Guidebooks did not regard any of the other pictures formerly in the church as being worthy of mention, apart from an Apparition of Our Lady of Pompei in the third chapel on the right, and a depiction of "Blessed Pietro Chaull" (sic -no such beatus is listed by the Church) in the fourth chapel, which was done in oils (not fresco) by one A. Gueniot.
For the renovation, different dioceses have taken care of these chapels and the personages featured in the modern paintings therein by Newton can have a special appeal to Australia, Oceania and the Far East. For example, St Mary MacKillop (top right) and St Peter Chanel. Cardinal Francis-Xavier Văn Thuận Nguyễn is depicted in prison in Vietnam; he is not beatified yet, but may soon be. Archbishop Bede Polding also features.
Access and liturgyEdit
You can visit the chapel at any reasonable hour. Just go into the foyer of the hotel, and ask directions from reception.
Mass times are:
Weekdays 18:00, in English.
Saturdays 18:00, in Italian.
Sundays 9:00, in English.
Website of shrine (Pompeii)