Santi Martiri di Selva Candida is a 21st century parish church at Via dei Santi Martiri di Selva Candida 7, in the suburb of Selva Candida west of the Grande Raccordo Anulare (Circonvallazione Settentrionale). This is in the Casalotti zone.
This church is in the municipality of Rome, but belongs to the diocese of Porto Santa Rufina.
The dedication of the church is to the martyrs SS Rufina and Secunda. However, the parish is dedicated to the Birthday of Our Lady (Natività di Maria Santissima).
The diocese is a combination of two ancient ones, that of Porto and that of Santa Rufina. The latter town was centred on a 4th century basilica built over the shrine of the martyrs, described by the revised Roman martyrology as being at the ninth milestone on the Via Cornelia. This church became the cathedral of a diocese, but both it and the town were completely abandoned perhaps at the end of the 11th century.
The exact location of the old cathedral remains uncertain -see Sante Rufina e Seconda a Porcareccina.
Some confusion is caused by a neighbouring parish also being dedicated to the two saints, and also having a different dedication for its church -see Santa Gemma Galgani a Casalotti.
The parish was set up in the later 20th century, at a time when suburban development was just starting and the area was still mainly rural. The first church was dedicated to Our Lady's birthday, Natività di Maria Santissima a Selva Candida, and was a small building.
However, as development progressed the church became inadequate and so it was decided to build a new, bigger one on a separate site. This was begun in 2000, and completed in 2005. It was decided not to change the dedication of the parish.
The award-winning design was by the Studio Passarelli (Tullio, Maria and Lucio Passarelli with Tullio Leonore). On-site engineering was overseen by Antonio Michetti, the artistic consultant was Cecco Bonanotte and the liturgical consultant Fr Silvano Maggiani.
The parish priest at the time of this project was Ruggero Conti, who was arrested in 2008 on charges of violent sexual abuse of minors after a complaint made by his curate. After his conviction, his sentence was eventually fixed at eleven years following appeal. The offences took place between 1998 and 2008, and the conviction related to the abuse of seven victims. This has been the most high-profile case of clerical paedophilia at Rome in recent years.
The original church was handed over to a sisterhood belonging to the Chaldean Catholic Church, which now administer it as a private chapel attached to their pilgrimage hotel called Villaggio San Giuseppe.
The parish is entrusted to the Passionists.
The church is part of a larger sports and social complex, built on a greenfield site. Usually with new Roman churches, the church itself has the major civic presence and the ancillary facilities are subordinate to its design. However, here the architects chose to reverse the focus. Their inspiration was the atrium or courtyard surrounded by covered walkways which were often attached to the front of ancient churches. San Clemente is a good surviving example.
The ancillary facilities are in four wings of mostly two storeys, which enclose a large rectangular quadrangle or quadriportico. Apart from a large meeting hall opposite the church, which has a half-barrel vaulted roof, the roofs are flat and the walls are in bright white photovoltaic concrete with small square windows.
The complex stands away from the street, beyond a small parkland area. The wing facing the street is on one of the short sides of the rectangle. This entrance wing has the main parish offices at its left end and the parish library and archives to the right, and these are connected by an upper storey supported on massive concrete slab piers forming a wide access zone. This is the so-called portico. The upper storey has a break in it which provides a monumental entrance focus, the break having a curved glass canopy at roof level and a solid backing wall with a three-sided bottom edge giving a gateway.
On entering the quadrangle, you will see the church on your left. The ancillary wings contain internal walkways fronted by square piers without embellishment.
Church layout Edit
The church plan intrudes into the rectangular courtyard, and its major axis is at an angle to it. However, there is no axis of symmetry. The layout is based on a right-angled triangle with the hypotenuse to the right, the short side at the entrance and the right angle at the near left corner. However, the hypotenuse is occupied by a sweeping curve which approximates to a quarter-circle. Attached to the short side is the hypotenuse of another right angle, which comprises the entrance canopy.
The main edifice has a narrow aisle running up its left hand side, which terminates in a tower campanile. A rectangular ferial or weekday chapel is perpendicular to the near end of the aisle, and is incorporated into the quadrangle wing on this side of the church.
Church fabric Edit
The fabric comprises a reinforced concrete frame, with pink brick infill.
The curved wall to the right, which runs from the campanile at the far left round to the right hand side of the frontage, is in blank pink brick. It is actually double, with an interior wall at a slightly gentler curve nested within it, and the void between them is covered by a flat roof in the shape of a thin crescent. This roof is slightly higher than the main roof.
The curved wall has two fenestrations. Near the far end is a vertical window strip from the roofline almost to the ground, and this is behind the altar. At ground level to the right of this, and occupying most of the sweep of the curve, is a low and wide fenestration with a gently curved top. This is interrupted by a two-storey flat-roofed structure abutting the church, which actually contains an elevated walkway which continues on through the church interior.
The main roof is flat, and covers the entrance canopy as well.
The side aisle is flat-roofed, and lower than the main nave. In between its roof and the roofline of the latter is a fenestration strip. Most of the exterior wall of the aisle is taken up by the ferial chapel and sacristy block.
The tower campanile is on a Y-shaped plan, with the stem of the Y formed of two parallel grey concrete slabs and the arms being their splayed near ends. The gap between the parallel slabs contains the staircase at the back, and is open at the front between the arms with several storeys created by inserted floor slabs.
The end of the curved wall on the right hand side of the façade shows that the wall is double. The left hand side is occupied by a tall, thin free-standing concrete column, and wall and column support the front end of the main roof which displays its structural steel girders. The roofline at an angle, creating a canopy on a triangular plan.
The actual frontage of the church, at the back of the canopy, is entirely in glass. In front of this are three apparently cuboidal forms -they are actually trapezoidal, as the frontages are skew in keeping with that of the church as a whole. The one on the left, mostly fronting the side aisle but intruding into the canopy, is a blank concrete wall with a row of four little square windows at the bottom which light the confessionals. The one on the left is a blank-walled cuboid clad in limestone slabs, and this is the baptistery. In between is a huge square white frame which contains the actual entrance, the doors filling the entire frame and comprising sixteen square panels with metal bas-relief depictions of saints.
The main nave comprises the worshipping area, and contains the seating for the congregation. The sanctuary is at the far end.
The front end of the ferial chapel intrudes into the near end of the side aisle to the left. This chapel has a major axis aligning with the quadrangle, and hence almost perpendicular to that of the church. The far end of the aisle houses the chapel of Our Lady, and the near end has the confessionals.
The baptistery is to the left of the entrance, which is unusual in contemporary Roman church designs where the font is usually near the main altar.
The curved right hand wall is in pink brick. The main nave is separated from the left hand aisle by five tall white concrete columns which run up to the horizontal concrete roof beam which tops the main nave wall above the aisle. The aisle wall is also in white.
The floor is in grey slabs. The sanctuary is raised on three steps, and from the far end of the major axis of the main nave runs a red marble strip which continues up the stairs, just like a carpet.
There is semi-abstract stained glass in the windows. These comprise the counterfaçade, the left hand wall above the aisle, the large curve-topped fenestration in the right hand wall, the tall thin strip behind the altar and a wider tall strip at the end of the left hand aisle, behind the Marian chapel. These windows have an empyrean theme, evoking skyscapes mostly in blue and yellow. However, the window strip behind the altar is in red which evokes the flames of the Holy Spirit.
The main roof is in laminated timber, with several massive transverse plank-beams. The planking of the roof in between the beams does not reach the curved right hand wall, but leaves gaps which are filled with skylights.
Perhaps the most striking feature in the interior is the elevated walkway running at a slant through the main nave. It is supported by two more concrete columns, and has metal grid balustrades. From it extends a small gallery over the baptistery, intended for an organ (although there seems to have been a delay in providing this instrument).
The font is hexagonal, in white limestone. It has a bronze lid with an interesting sculptural detail representing a stream of water running down the side of the font. This is flanked by two bronze plaques bearing the Greek letters Alpha and Omega.
The ferial chapel contains the tabernacle, which is a bronze cube having a semi-abstract bas-relief sculpture on its door evoking ears of grain. It stands on a squat limestone column, and is accompanied by a vertical limestone slab with a rather odd abstract scribble on it in red -rather like a disintegrating rectangular form.
The Marian chapel has a traditional polychrome statue of the Madonna and Child, a good-quality piece derived from the Byzantine tradition of the Hodegitria but with iconographic alterations (she has bare feet, and is pointing with one finger instead of the whole hand). She has a halo of twelve stars instead of the more usual seven. The statue is accompanied by two white trapezoidal slabs with curved edges, and a forest of pot plants.
The Stations of the Cross are a colourful set of paintings on the right hand wall, by Eugenio Cannistra.
The main altar has a stone frontal in the form of a row of vertical strip panels, with several missing on the right hand side leaving a gap.
The seating of the ministers is in a large square recess to the right of the back window, which is in pale yellow. The backs of the three seats are in varnished wood, contrasting with this colour, and the central seat has its back running up the whole height of the recess.
Mass is celebrated (parish website, July 2018):
Weekdays 8:00, 18:00 (19:00 in summer);
Sundays and Solemnities 8:00, 10:00, 11:30, 18:00 (19:00 in summer).
The parish has two other Mass centres: