WALK AROUND TOUR
All Saints’ is a handsome High Victorian church building, and it is George Edmund Street’s last work, he is better known for having designed the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand. Our church stands proud at the corner of the Via del Babuino and the Via di Gesù e Maria. The rich polychromy of the exterior in red brick and white marble is familiar to Victorian architecture in England, however, it is also the sign that Street was highly influenced by Italian architecture. Its odd orientation comes from the crammed nature of the site found for its construction. The door on the Via del Babuino leads the visitor to the east-end of the south-aisle of our church.
In the corridor leading to the church is a memorial to the Revd. Francis Blake Woodward, chaplain at the Granary Chapel between 1850-66. It was designed by William Slater and its intricate design centred around the sacred letters IHS is a testimony to the previous use of this memorial as a reredos for the first Anglican chapel in Rome, together with the pews it is the only survival from the first English church in Rome. The church is also disseminated with plaques and memorials of clergy and parishioners gone by and who played an important role in the life of our church.
The interior of our church is lofty and spacious, albeit perhaps not very luminous given its crammed location - it all feels very English and Victorian. Mr. Street, our architect, was the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and a great promoter of the High Church movement of the 19th century led by Percy Dearmer that aimed at re-establishing an all-English form of ritualism within the Anglican world. The interior of the church is centred around the altar and the celebration of Holy Communion.
The central nave is beautified by six columns and pillars made of very fine polychromed marbles from across Southern Europe; green Carrara, red Perugia, black Verona and Yellow Siena. The nave is also adorned with twelve mosaic roundels symbolising the evangelists and other themes from Holy Scripture. Our stained glass windows were designed by the London firm Clayton&Bell: the lancet windows in the chancel represent scenes related to the life of Christ, the window in the Lady Chapel represents the Archangels, while the windows in the nave represent various English and Italian saints. Finally, in the counter-façade, is a window of the Ascension of Christ - the two windows by the back door represent Saints Peter and Paul, the patrons of Rome.
The Lady Chapel or Blessed Sacrament Chapel, at the east-end of the north-aisle, comes with an English-Use altar. The chapel’s hanging lamp signifies the presence of the reserved sacrament in the aumbry. The door of the tabernacle was given in memory of Bishop Collins of Gibraltar, 1904-1911, whose tragic death, during a pastoral tour, shocked the diocese. An 18th century copy of a Renaissance Madonna and Child, by Benedetto da Maiano, stands in the north end of the chapel, as a sign that according to an old English custom, the side chapel of a church is always dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Looking at the sanctuary, the focal point of the church, behind the high altar is a fine marble reredos still bearing the great cross and six candlesticks commissioned when the church was built. Originally, the apse was also decorated with a cloth of red-damask fabric in the English Victorian style. It sadly deteriorated during the 1990s and was replaced with the current one, thanks to a generous donation in 2001.
The altar frontals, along with the pulpit falls, are changed with the changing of the liturgical seasons, and they follow Dearmer’s late Victorian pattern of: blue for Advent, White for Christmas and Easter, Purple for Lent, Red for Whitsunday, and Green for ordinary time. They are also changed according to the occasional feast day. Vestments, some of which still survive, have been used here since Easter 1898. Our sanctuary is a rare and complete example of late Victorian Anglican churchmanship, and it crowns a homogenous church arrangement.
The Romanesque-Revival pulpit is a later addition in yellow Siena and black Verona marble with inserts of white Como marble, it is a memorial to Canon Wasse, chaplain throughout the construction of the church, and who also contributed financially to its completion. The chancel-screen, in white Carrara, yellow Siena, and black Verona marble, is in memory of Cecilia, wife of Honourable Henry Walpole. Its design inspired the church hassocks, made in 1981 by the congregation. The baptismal font, at the back of church is designed in various types of marbles and decorated with various iconographic symbols, such as the fish, an ancient symbol of Jesus Christ.
History of the Anglican Community in Rome, Edoardo Fanfani, 2019.