Walk Round Tour
A Walk-Around Guide to All Saints' Anglican Church Rome
by the Rev.d Canon David Palmer
Except on a Sunday, when we use the porch door in Via Gesu e Maria, it is likely
that you entered All Saints' from the Via del Babuino -the Street of the Baboon.
(That is the ancient misnomer for the long headless, and now partly restored statue
of Silenus on the fountain trough nearby).
You may have felt disorientated at first, until you saw that the porch and corridor
stand alongside the sanctuary. The high altar is at the compass east end, unlike
that of several celebrated churches in Rome, including St. Peters. Thus, you will
have entered the church at the east end of the south aisle, where you will find
an area dedicated to Welcome with notice boards, leaflets and a visitors book.
First, however, you will have passed under the tower and spire, and you may have
noticed in the porch an inscription which records that the spire was finished only
in 1937, exactly fifty years after the church was completed. It is 140feet (42.7metres)
high, and its white stone exterior (slabs of travertine quarried, cut and polished
near Tivoli) gives our spire an exceptional brilliance in sunshine against a blue
sky, and there is no other like it in Rome. Pope John XXIII told a former chaplain
how he enjoyed picking it out with his field glasses from the windows of the Vatican
Palace. It can be seen from many other vantage points in and around the city without
the need of binoculars, or of aspiring to live in the Papal Apartments. Both the
tower and the whole exterior of All Saints' are protected from any alteration by
the stringent rules of the body which governs the visual aspect of central Rome.
We are here to stay.......
In the circular porch, the lancet window is glazed in colour. The panel shows St.
Chad, holding in his hand a model of Lichfield Cathedral. Between the laying of
the foundation stone at Easter 1882 and the eventual opening at Easter 1887 building
had reached a crucial stage. A former Bishop of Lichfield, was good enough to promote,
in his diocese in the English Midlands, the financial needs of All Saints'. This
window depicting the first Bishop of Lichfield (Mercia) who died in 672, was given
in memory of a Lichfield couple, John and Maud Clayton. Also commemorated, inside
the church on a brass tablet, is the long residence in Rome of the daughters of
one Prebendary Simeon Clayton of Lichfield. Remember to look up at St. Chad on the
way out if you are already inside when you read this.
Also on your way in, there stands - or broods - the strange and imposing memorial
in many - coloured marbles to the Revd. Francis Blake Woodward, Chaplain 1850 -
1866. A "Mr. Slater, the Architect" designed it.
The great geometrical composition may seem very impersonal, and Christianised only
by the sacred letters IHS
which appear in its central roundel. Yet this was the reredos behind the altar in
the latter days of our former English Chapel outside the Porta del Popolo. It must
have been a nightmare to take apart and store for five years between the demolition
of the old chapel and the monument's careful re-erection here in 1892.
It does represent, however, along with the few old pews of 1857/8 still in use,
the only item known to have survived from the earlier building, where Anglican worship
was offered from 1825 to 1887. (The first Anglican ministrations began still earlier,
in 1816, as recounted in the companion History; but these were held in various secular
locations borrowed for the purpose).