Santuario di San Giovanni Battista de La Salle is the chapel of the General Curia or the headquarters of the religious institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools , founded by St John Baptist de La Salle. It is at Via Aurelia 472, just north of the Val Cannuta in the Aurelio quarter.
The Brothers of the Christian Schools (in Italian, I Fratelli delle scuole cristiane and in French, Frères des Écoles Chrétiennes) were founded in Rheims, France at the end of the 17th century. The saintly founder established principles of education to be revitalised in Italy by St John Bosco.
The first convent in Rome was attached to a school near the Spanish Steps, and was opened in 1885. However, the Fascists proposed to demolish this in 1931 to make was for a road, as part of Mussolini's mad scheme to do to Rome what Baron Haussmann did to Paris. The scheme was abortive, but induced the Brothers to found a new school at Annunciazione della Villa Flaminia which became the Italian provincial headquarters.
The Brothers also decided to build a vast new convent in the Aurelio as its Generalate or world headquarters. Papal policy at the time was to encourage all international religious congregations to establish their headquarters in Rome, and many (not all) did. The architect was Tullio Passarelli, and the project was completed in 1939. The relics of St John Baptist were then transferred to the new chapel, where they remain.
At the end of the 20th century, the Brothers were struggling to justify the maintenance of such a large establishment, and partly in response converted part of it into a pilgrim hotel, the Casa La Salle.
The chapel and shrine has a surprisingly low public profile.
Despite being technically a private chapel, in reality the edifice is a large church which is part of a large and impressive convent complex with a symmetrical layout (part of this is now run as the Casa La Salle). The church is on the major axis of this and is situated at the rear, being connected to the main entrance as well as to the wings on each side by covered walkways. There are gardens around it.
As well as being the chapel of the Curia, it also contains the shrine of the founding saint.
The plan is basically rectangular, with the nave and presbyterium under one pitched and tiled roof. There is a semi-circular attached apse, and the nave has aisles with pitched roofs. In place of transepts, there are two large chapels each with a cupola on a little drum, and the roof pitched up to the drum. The outer walls of these are semi-circular, giving the chapels the appearance of little circular churches attached to the main structure.
The exterior fabric is in red brick. The lower façade is obscured by the enclosed access corridors. Above, there is a large outline arch enclosing three large, tall narrow windows the centre of which is slightly taller. The aisle sections of the frontage have sloping rooflines, and each has two little windows one above the other. There is no other decoration.
There is a tall, imposing campanile behind the apse, which is a brick tower on a square plan with an arcade of three arched soundholes on each side at the top beneath a tiled pyramidal cap.
The interior is mostly painted in a creamy white, with splashes of colour in the stained glass. The aisle pillars are cross-shaped in section, and are clad in grey-veined marble. White marble is used for their cushion capitals, which have carved tracery. There is a bronze statue of the patron saint on the apse wall behind the altar.