SAN CAMILLO DE LELLIS – A Basilica with a  neo-Romanesque heart

– Anastasios

If you visit Rome, it is most probable that you will have the occasion to see the main train station, Stazione Termini. This station was active for a very long time but was rebuilt during the time when fascism was in full power. It was completed after the fall of fascism. The areas surrounding Termini station are a mix of historical buildings and the more recent ones, knowing that “recent” when speaking about Rome means one or two centuries ago. So, many buildings here are the outcome of an architecture that developed after Rome became the capital of Italy.

Not far from Termini station, there is the Basilica of San Camillo de Lellis, that was built in recent times (remember, recent for Rome, not in absolute terms), in the first decade of the 20th century, thanks to the interest of the then pope (and now saint) Pius X. In that area, close to what is known today as Piazza della Repubblica (once known as Piazza dell’Esedra) there was the garden of the Barberini  family.  At the place where the church now stands was a noble mansion, Villa Spithoever, that was then demolished. The architect chosen to build the church was Tullio Passarelli (1869-1941), an architect who was well known at that time and who specialized in religious buildings. The style he preferred was neo Romanic: “Passarelli elected the neo-Romanesque as the language of religious architecture in the new capital, capable of dealing with the historic city and relating to it without competing with the baroque tradition of the symbolic churches of Rome.” (treccani.it)

We find a description of this style that seems quite compelling: “sometimes classified as Romanesque Revival. It’s style was employed mostly in the late 19th century and was inspired by the 11th and 12th century Romanesque style of architecture. Popular features of these buildings are round arches, semi-circular arches on windows, and belt courses. Unlike the classical Romanesque style, Neo-Romanesque buildings tend to feature more simplified arches and windows than their counterparts. The style was quite popular for courthouses and university campuses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, perhaps the best-known of these being the University of California, Los Angeles. The style was widely used for churches and synagogues, such as the Congregation Emanu-El of New York on Fifth Avenue built in 1929.” (thedesignstandard.com) There is a pipe organ built by the famous Italian organ builder Carlo Veggezzi Bossi on a project by Filippo Capocci (1840-1911), son of a famous choirmaster of the 19th century and one of the most well known organists of the time. The organ was donated to the church by the Queen of Italy Margherita di Savoia (1851-1926).

Pope Paul VI, made this church a minor Basilica on May 22, 1965. The interior of the church contains many images of San Camillo de Lellis (1550-1614), who is the patron saint of the sick. He is the founder of the Camillians, or Clerics Regular, Minister of the Sick. This congregation is in charge of the church that also serves as a parish. As a parish, the church is also involved in ecumenical activities and initiatives that have the scope to make people aware about environmental issues. There is also an interesting initiative called “honor guard to the Sacred Heart of Jesus”, an association that strives to increase personal devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through several religious practices and devotions.

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