Santi Protomartiri Romani del Seminario Minore is a 20th century Fascist-era college chapel belonging to the Pontificio Seminario Romano Minore. It is located at Viale Vaticano 42, at the western tip of Vatican City and in the Trionfale quarter.
The dedication is to the Protomartyrs of Rome, and there is a subsidiary chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of Our Lady of Perseverance. The seminary as a whole is dedicated to her.
A minor seminary is a boarding school for teenage boys who have an interest in being ordained to the priesthood. At Rome, this was founded in 1913 by dividing the previous Roman Seminary into two institutions according to the ages of the candidates.
At first, the Minor Seminary was accommodated near the church of Santa Marta in Vaticano in Vatican City, but was replaced in a massive alteration of the layout as a result of the independence of the Vatican. As a result, a new seminary building was erected just outside the Vatican's walls. The architect was Giuseppe Momo, who began work in 1930 and completed it in 1933.
The sanctuary of the main chapel was re-ordered in 1973, with a new altar and lectern in Carrara marble.
There was a restoration of the Marian chapel by Carlo Bevilacqua in 1992, involving the provision of stained glass windows and the re-ordering of the sanctuary.
The seminary is in Italy, but has extraterritorial status which means that it is entirely administered by the Vatican.
The seminary is a massive single block, with three five-storey wings arranged around a central courtyard. The latter is separated from the street by a fourth single-storey wing.
The main chapel is in the middle of the far wing, to the north-west and looking over the slope of the Vatican Hill down to the Valle Aurelia. The back of it protrudes, and has a pitched and tiled roof with an external semi-circular apse having its own lower tiled roof with four sectors. The side walls have three vertical rectangular windows each.
The entrance doorway off the central seminary courtyard has a Carrara marble doorcase, above which is a tympanum containing a polychrome stone relief sculpture of The Angel of the Arts. This is by Antonio Maraini 1932, and was originally intended for the Vatican Museums.
Santi Protomartiri Edit
The main chapel has a nave of two distinct structural zones, the nearer one within the seminary building and the further one comprising a stand-alone annexe. The latter has three large vertical clear glass windows in each side wall, and the former has deep recessed panels to match.
There are two ceiling, the near one being slightly lower than the far one. Both have large square coffers, but the coffers in the far ones each have molding added to their frames.
Overall, the colour scheme is muted with surfaces in white or a very pale cream colour.
The entrance wall is occupied by a gallery, supported on three arches and having a floating box-balcony with solid sides. The arches spring from limestone pilasters having simple slab imposts, and are supported by two pairs of square piers in the same style. Above each pair is a circular cut-out in the otherwise solid screen wall supported by the arches. The gallery has a little altar at its right hand end, dedicated to Pope St Pius X and having a bust of him.
The Stations of the Cross are joined by a fresco frieze running down each side wall and across the entrance wall, which depicts Biblical allegories. This matches the apse fresco, which takes up the entire apse wall and depicts St Peter Blesses the Roman Protomartyrs. Above, the flat apse ceiling bears a depiction of the Dove of the Holy Spirit. All this fresco work is by Mario Barberis.
To the left of the apse is a small organ, by Zeno Fedele 1906. To the right is a polychrome stone Baroque tabernacle, above which is a depiction of Our Lady of Perseverance in an elaborate gilt frame. The organ and tabernacle stand in very shallow segmental apses flanking the main apse, which look as if they were intended to contain side altars.
Santa Maria della Perseveranza Edit
The Marian chapel is separate from the main chapel, being in the north wing of the seminary. The present room dates from a re-ordering in 1954, when the chapel was made much bigger. There was a restoration by Bevilacqua in 1992. He was responsible for the marble sanctuary furnishings, and the blue and yellow stained glass in the right hand wall.
The room has a low ceiling in white, with diapered coffers elongated transversely.
The sanctuary has a back-screen with a pair of diagonal wings, entirely covered in gilded mosaic. This comprises a glory surrounding a little icon of Our Lady, while the wings bear Marian texts. The sanctuary is flanked by choir stalls.
There is no access to casual visitors -if you wish to visit the seminary, you need to obtain an invitation beforehand.