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Santa Maria della Presentazione a Torrevecchia is an early 21st century parish and titular church at Via di Torrevecchia 1104 in the Primavalle quarter, north of the Via di Boccea. This is in the suburb of Torrevecchia.
The parish was set up in 1973, but it had to wait some time for its permanent church. This was designed by Glauco and Roberto Ghesleri in 1997, and completed in 2001. (This architectural partnership has an impressive oeuvre.)
The church was made titular in 2007. The present cardinal priest is Francisco Robles Ortega.
Info.roma has the address at Via Torrevecchia 47, which is a storefront beauty parlour in the ground floor of an apartment block a long way from the new church. Was this the location of the original temporary church?
Orientation and layout Edit
The edifice has a rather post-modern style, and a very quirky layout and fabric. This takes some describing.
The first thing to realize is, that looking from the street you are seeing the back of the church. The frontage here is of the sacristy block, with the circular church behind. The altar end of the church is immediately behind the sacristy block, and the actual church entrance is round the end furthest from the street.
Hence, the usual way of describing the church ("right" and "left" when facing the altar) involves you facing towards the street and not away from it.
Circular bit Edit
The main body of the church is a circular drum, with a blank exterior wall rendered in a pinkish red cement which has a low parapet roofline. The roof itself is flat, with a large projecting square skylight which is divided into four smaller squares by thin concrete vanes. The sides of this are also fenestrated. This skylight is not central to the circular roof, but is set back on the major axis to light the altar. Another, flush arc-shaped skylight hugs the parapet behind the altar.
Concrete cage Edit
Then the church's concrete "cage":-
Looking at the entrance façade, you see a grid of six large rectangles, three on top of three, formed from four concrete piers and two horizontal transverse beams. The lower beam is actually at the roofline of the sacristy block (see below), and the row of three rectangular concrete frames above it are open to the air. These front a line of small trees in pots, growing on the roof. Two long horizontal concrete beams run from the top corners of the upper row of rectangles, back and right across the roof of the main church. These are connected by another horizontal transverse beam at the back end of the sacristy block roof. From this, two further longitudinal beams also run across the roof of the main church, and flank the square skylight. They continue beyond the church to another concrete frame of six rectangles, identical to the one making up the façade.
Similarly, two longitudinal beams making up the sacristy block roofline on its sides continue until they reach the church wall, then look as if they continue through the church to the frame on the other side. A lower pair of beams does the same thing from the back of the sacristy block. Hence, the two elements of the church, the round bit and the sacristy block, are connected by an open concrete cage-frame.
Sacristy block Edit
The sacristy block is a separate edifice on a trapezoidal plan, also with a flat roof, half the height of the church. Between church and sacristy block is a small void, and the two elements are joined by a corridor on the right (west) side. Three sides of the trapezoid are at right angles, but the street entrance side slopes back, left to right.
The frontage of the sacristy block is a blank wall in pale orange render, and is set back beneath the lower transverse beam of the cage. As mentioned it is at an angle to the major axis, running back left to right as you face it from the street. Protruding from the lower left hand rectangle of the cage is a cuboidal structure with the same blank walls, a flat roof and a trapezoidal plan. The front wall has a square protrusion extending from the top half of its left hand edge, and this contains the beginning of a raised-letter display of the name of the church which runs across the rest of the front wall. This is necessary, since the overall construction looks nothing like a traditional church.
The plain, unadorned street entrance to the sacristies is in the right hand side of the angled main frontage wall. The right hand side wall of the sacristy block is a large glass window, and the left hand wall is blank.
The detached campanile is to the right of the sacristy block. Four concrete piers with beams connecting their tops form a vertical cuboid on a rectangular plan, and this supports three stacked open cuboids made from steel bars. These have their smaller faces square, and are separated by horizontal crossbars. The bells are in the top storey.
In between the campanile and the street is a water feature, basically a two-storey pond with water flowing over the lip of the upper storey into the lower.
Entrance and ferial chapel Edit
The entrance end of the church is quirky, too. A large trapezoidal extension in the same pale orange render as the narthex is attached to the left hand side of the curve of the church here, sheltering under the middle and left hand of this end of the cage and protruding beyond it. This is the ferial chapel.
From the right hand wall of this, an arc wall matching that of the church runs in line with the church's curve to just outside the cage. Between this wall and the far wall of the chapel is a large window in clear glass which lights the chapel.
The other end of the arc contains the actual church entrance. Congratulations if you are a stranger around here, and manage to find it without confusion!
Entrance courtyard Edit
There is a separate ancillary building to the right (west) of the church, which is a long rectangular one-storey structure with a flat roof and an internal portico on the side facing the church. The walls are in the same pinkish red as the church, with the concrete portico piers in white.
In between this edifice and the church is a courtyard, approached by two flights of steps up from the street. The flights are at an angle to each other -more quirkiness. The courtyard is cobbled, and has nine little pom-pom ilex trees planted in a square grid pattern (don't those responsible realize how big these trees can grow?). Here also is an interesting sculptural bench, formed of two vertical slabs intersecting in the form of a cross and a horizontal slab intersecting both to provide the actual seating. This feature echoes a dominant decorative element of the interior (see below).
The interior is surprisingly small -the church cannot accommodate a large congregation.
On passing through the main entrance, via a doorway tucked into the end of the detached arc-shaped wall, you find yourself a little foyer with the ferial chapel entrance in the left hand corner straight ahead and the actual church entrance to the right.
The free-standing church altar is set slightly back on the major axis from the centre of the circular floor, and is immediately under a low square skylight turret. From the flat top of the skylight descends a suspended form, made up of two slabs intersecting to give a cross at their lower edges. This is reflected in the design of the altar, which has four slab legs arranged on the plan of a cross. The sides of the turret are fenestrated.
The seating arrangements also reflect the cross motif, as the pews are not set radially but are in three blocks facing the altar (not behind it)
Four concrete beams, the lower of the longitudinal ones of the "cage" described above, pass through the volume of the church and are supported by two pairs of rectangular concrete piers each. These are embedded in a flat ceiling of unpainted varnished planking, which has an arc cut out of it at the far curve of the church in order to let in light from the arc-shaped skylight above.
The church walls, beams and piers are in white.
The fenestration in the curved church wall behind the altar is irregular. There are four slit windows in clear glass where the concrete beams leave the church fabric, but the left hand ones reach the floor while the right hand ones are interrupted by two doorways. The left hand door leads to the sacristy, and the right hand one is a side entrance. The two windows on the left flank the church organ, which unusually perches on a floating horizontal shelf.
The altarpiece on the wall behind the altar is a depiction of the Presentation in a neo-Byzantine style.
Ferial chapel Edit
The Ferial Chapel is also the Blessed Sacrament chapel.
On entering, you find a short passage into the main church immediately on your left. The altar is oriented in the same direction as that in the church, which is to say that the orientation is left to right as you enter. The curved wall behind the altar is actually part of the main wall of the church.
The altar, lectern and the seating of the celebrants are in cuboidal blocks of travertine. The chapel has two figurative stained glass windows, one showing The Good Shepherd and the other, The Prodigal Son.
Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 8:30 (not August), 18:30;
Sundays and Solemnities 8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 18:30.
From mid-June to the start of September, the 10:00 and 11:30 Masses on Sundays are replaced by one Mass at 11:00. See the parish website for the exact dates of the summer season.
Public chapels Edit
The church has several public chapels elsewhere, where Mass is celebrated:
Weekdays 17:00 (not June to August, Mondays to Fridays);
Sundays and Solemnities 9:30. Shopfront.
9:15 on Sundays and Solemnities (9:30 in summer). There is no weekday public Mass.
Weekdays 7:10 (7:30 in summer);
Sundays and Solemnities 10:00. (Note that this is not the octagonal chapel on the Via di Torrevecchia, which is not public.)
Sundays and Solemnities at 10:00, and on Saturdays and eves of Solemnities at 17:00 (18:00 in summer).
Mass on Sundays and Solemnities at 11:00 (not July and August). Shopfront.
Parish website (beware of background music!)