1500 hundred years Rome was without a church dedicated to St. Patrick. However,
on the 1st of February 1888 this was rectified and the
foundation stone of the present church was laid. The man with the dream was Fr.
Patrick Glynn, an Augustinian from Limerick, who was based in the Augustinian
Church of Sta. Maria in Posterula. However, it took another 23 years before the
church was completed and opened on St. Patrick’s Day 1911.
The architect was Aristide Leonori. The façade of the church is described as
being close to the Pisan or Florentine style of the 13th century.
Almost unseen is a beautiful mosaic of St. Patrick high up on the façade.
Another mosaic over the main door depicts St. Patrick receiving a Blessing from
Pope Celestine 1. Simplicity is the overall interior effect, which is heightened
by the alternating column-pillar arrangement. The ceiling is a simple coffered
timber in monochrome. A subdued lighting results from the Celtic design
cathedral windows. The floor is an attractive marble design, while that of the
sanctuary features mosaics of St. Patrick, St. Brigid and St. Colmcille, now
partly concealed by the new altar arrangement. The pillars are of alabaster and
marble while the columns are of pink granite. The grey-green curtain marble
behind the high-altar was meant to highlight the altar itself and be a foil to
the apse mosaic.
The mosaic which dominates the sanctuary and the church, is the work of Rodolfo
Villani (1929) depicting St. Patrick converting the High King Laoghaire at Tara,
using the shamrock to explain the Trinity. The banner UT
SITIS (“Be ye
Christians as those of the Roman Church”)
-- is a quote taken from the writings of St. Patrick.
On the left hand side is the Sacred Heart altar, with a beautiful mosaic of the
Last Supper by Galimberti (1942). On the right hand side is Our Lady’s altar,
with the painting of Our Lady of Grace. This painting is from the 14th
century and is painted on slate. In 1955, layers of paint from previous
restorations were removed to reveal the original. This painting has been a focus
of devotion for Augustinians for more than 2 centuries, having come to us from
the church of San Biagio in Tinta which was just round the corner from our old
church of Santa Maria in Posterula.
Above the High altar on the arch are two interesting frescos of St. Brigid and
St. Colmcille. There are two shrines at the back of the church, dedicated to St.
Brigid and St. Oliver Plunkett with painting by Leona Rosa. (1938)
The Stations of the Cross are outstanding and are considered the
“capolavoro” of the artist Alceo Dossena (1931). They are carved in white
Carrara marble, and the high relief, freestanding figures and immense detail
makes each panel a delight. They were commissioned by Genevieve Brady, and were
displayed in her residence. She later married the Irish minister to the Holy See,
William McCauley,. After Genevieve’s death in 1938, her husband presented the
Stations to St. Patrick’s Church in her memory.
We know very little of the Pieta, which is just inside the front door of the
church on the left. It is a high relief, with six figures. It is a beautiful
piece of work, with an intense expression of the act of laying the body of Jesus
in the tomb. The body bears a fair resemblance to that of Michaelangelo’s
Pieta. It is finely executed with great detail.