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Santa Teresa d'Avila

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Santa Teresa d'Avila is an early 20th minor basilica, parish, conventual and titular church which is at Corso d'Italia 37 in the Pinciano quarter, just east of the Villa Borghese and facing the ancient city walls. Pictures of the church on Wikimedia Commons are here.

The dedication is to St Teresa of Jesus, founder of the Discalced Carmelite (OCD) nuns and a Doctor of the Church.


The foundation stone of the church was laid by Girolamo Cardinal Gotti OCD in 1901. It was designed in a neo-Romanesque style with 11th century northern European influences by Tullio Passarelli, and completed remarkably quickly. The structure was ready by 1902. It was made a parochial church by Pope Pius X in 1906, and at the same time the new parish was entrusted to the Discalced Carmelite friars. They still serve the parish, and have their Generalate in the convent next door.

Pope Pius XII elevated the church to the status of Minor Basilica in 1951.

In 1962 Pope St John XXIII made the church titular, with the title of Santa Teresa in Corso d'Italia. The first cardinal priest was Giovanni Cardinal Panico. The last titular priest was H.E. László Cardinal Paskai OFM, appointed in 1985 and who died in 2015. The title is presently (end of 2015) vacant.


Layout and fabric Edit

This is a substantial building in red brick, with a few architectural details in limestone. The plan is basilical, in the form of a Latin cross. There is a central nave with side aisles of three bays, followed by a transept of the same width as the nave with its aisles and having a depth equivalent to a nave bay. Then comes a sanctuary of one bay, with a high semi-circular apse. This sanctuary bay is flanked by a pair of side chapels, each of which has its own little apse.

The side walls of the central nave have the bays delineated by a pair of blind brick pilaster-buttresses, which are taken over the single-pitched side aisle roofs and down the blank side aisle walls. These support the internal vault. In the central side walls, separated by these buttresses, are three large shallow round-headed recesses each of which contains a pair of tall round-headed windows. The aisle side walls each have a pair of little round-headed windows in each bay.

The rooflines of the walls are embellished with hanging or pendant arches in relief as part of the brickwork, which are supported by brick corbels. These hanging arcades are a design feature of the church.

The transepts each have a pair of wheel windows in the side walls (matching that in the façade -see below), and the left hand end has a large three-light window in the end wall. The sanctuary bay has a single tall window on each side, and the central apse has five of these separated by tall, thin pilasters.

The central nave has a pitched and tiled roof, which runs over the transept and the sanctuary bay. The transept ends have their own pitched and tiled roofs, slightly lower. The central apse has a roof of five triangular sectors, the same height as the transept ends.

Convent Edit

The left hand transept end has an end wall facing a side street, but the right hand one joins seamlessly onto a very tall six-storey convent block which shares the roof. This block is in the same style as the church, but is extended by lower wings to the right and also parallel to the church on the right hand side. These were built later in first half of the 20th century, and do not match.

These wings of the convent face onto a cloister garden, which has a two-storey brick block containing shops between it and the street. This range looks original; the shop frontages are within an arcade of fifteen arches separated by engaged piers with stone imposts and bases.

About the 1960's the friars added two large blocks in modernist style, one to the north of the north cloister range and the other facing the cloister garth to the east.

Campanile Edit

There is a tall brick campanile inserted into the corner between the far end of the right aisle and the right hand end of the transept. Each side has a wide sunken panel, topped by four little arches springing from stone corbels. Below these arches is a clock-face. The bell-chamber is above a projecting molded stone cornice, and has an arcade of three open arches on each side separated by a pair of little stone columns with block capitals. These arches are within a similar sunken panel in the brickwork, topped by four more decorative hanging arches. The crowning cornice is embellished with modillions (little brackets), and there is a slightly overhanging tiled pyramidal cap.

Façade Edit

The church's entrance façade is of two storeys. The central nave frontage of the first storey is blank brickwork, except for the impressive entrance which is approached by a flight of six steps. This has a gabled entrance porch, the roofline of which has a stone cornice. The actual entrance is a semi-circular arch supported by a pair of grey marble columns, the capitals of which are elaborately carved in basketwork. Within this arch are nested two others, with the archivolts receding and supported by four more columns. These nested arches enclose the actual doorway, over which is a tympanum with a carved relief depicting Christ Blessing St Teresa.

The bronze door was provided in 1983. It is by Fra Serafino Melchiore OCD, and the reliefs depicts scenes from the life of St Teresa.

The aisle ends of the first storey show their sloping rooflines, which are decorated with little pendant brick arches set on stone corbels. A pair of blind pilasters occupies the corners. Each of these subsidiary zones has a round-headed window with a projecting floating arc or eyebrow cornice above.

At the top of the first storey is a narrow stone cornice, and above this is a loggia passage set into the façade with eleven little arches separated by small columns with derivative Ionic capitals. Over this is a projecting cornice, and at each end of this is a carved marble lion by Armando Brasini.

The second storey is gabled, but without a pediment. There is a large central stone wheel window in a wide frame, and three small rectangular stone tablets arranged in a triangle around it. These bear heraldry carved in relief. Above the window is a stone-framed air-hole shaped like a Greek cross. The roofline has a stone cornice, and pendant arches like those below the aisle rooflines.


Layout and fabric Edit

The central nave of three bays is cross-vaulted, with the bays defined by two large structural piers in the side arcades. Each bay is divided into two sub-piers by a pair of thinner piers in between these. The piers have clustered columns, in a Gothic idiom.

The nave side aisles contain three side altars each (there are no external chapels off the aisles), and these are located in the far sub-bays of each bay. The near sub-bay of the middle bay on the left has a side entrance.

The transept is counted as part of the sanctuary, and is raised on a short flight of steps. The main altar is free-standing and is in the far side of the transept crossing, with a choir behind it in the apse. There is a pair of apsidal side-chapels flanking the sanctuary.

The choir is walled off by a solid screen of carved limestone, a pulpitum. On top of this is a shrine-aedicule with four corner columns, containing a life-sized statue of St Teresa which dominates the interior.

Artworks Edit

The church is decorated with works by early 20th century Roman artists.

The wheel window over the entrance has stained glass showing Christ and the Apostles.

The wooden choir stalls are 18th century. They came from Santa Maria in Campo Marzio.

The eight side altars are dedicated to Carmelite saints. The polychrome marble altar frontals were rescued from the demolished church of Santa Maria in Macello Martyrum.

A bronze crucifix is early 17th century, by Pietro Tacca.


Opening times are:

Weekdays 7:00 -12:00, 16:15 -19:15.

Sundays 8:00 -13:00, 16:15 -19:30.


Mass times have been revised recently. They now are:

Weekdays 7:30, 8:30, 18:30.

Sundays 9:30, 10:30, 12:00, 18:30.

The feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated with solemnity on 16 July, and that of St Teresa of Avila on 15 October.

External linksEdit

(Amazingly, photos online of the interior seem to be non-existent.)

Official diocesan web-page

Italian Wikipedia page

Info.roma web-page

Carmelite web-page

Photo showing campanile

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