You know what?! Today I allowed myself a little vacation!
I took my suitcase, I got on the train and I reached the capital city of Italy, Rome!
More precisely, I came to visit the Waldensian temple of Cavour Square… just because this year occurs its centenary, as it was inaugurated on February 8th, 1914.
Waldensian people had come to Rome from the Valleys on September 20th, 1870, bringing with them a cart (pulled by a dog) full of Bibles in Italian, and they built the first temple in IV Novembre Street, in the Trevi district. In 1910 it was decided to build this new place of worship in the Prati neighborhood, an area where many working class people and employees used to live.
The final result of the temple of Cavour Square is due to two different projects, as well as to a drawing done by the backer of the work, the American lady Emma Baker Kennedy.
As it happened in the Valleys, where many of the existing Waldenses buildings were born by the will of wealthy foreign benefactors (the most famous among them is Charles Beckwith), also here Waldenses obtained fundings from abroad to build their place of worship and to start some social actions to improve the lifestyle of the entire neighborhood.
In addition to the temple, some other meeting places were created, most of them dedicated to women and to the the inhabitants of the district; a clinic was started, as well as a gym and a “House of the soldier”, with rooms allocated for toldiers from the nearby barracks located in Militia avenue. Moreover, a language school and a sewing school were started.
That’s why the temple is so majestic, even if it hosted such a small community!
In the remaining part of the plot, Emma Baker Kennedy chose to build the Faculty of Theology, which at that time was about to be transferred from Florence to Rome.
…but who was that woman that used to call the temple of Cavour Square “my church in Rome”? Emma Baker was born in New York City in 1833 into a Protestant family of British origin. She married the young and talented businessman John Steward Kennedy, whom she took the surname from, who got rich in very short time! Through their whole life Mr and Mrs Kennedy did not have children and they devoted themselves to many charitable initiatives; when John Steward died, Emma inherited half of her husband’s extraordinary patrimony with the task to invest it in social projects, and one of the projects she decided to support was precisely the Waldensian Roman community from Cavour Square!
Probably because of the backer’s likings, the appearance of this temple is very special: the intent was to understand at a first glance to be in front of a church, but not a Catholic church. The real peculiarity of the temple is however at its core and is represented by the beautiful stained glass windows created using the ancient technique of binding to lead, which required the use of material from Germany. The images of the stained glass windows create a path talking about God, soul, eternal life and faith.
It is not only the temple to talk about faith and of itself: the community of Cavour Square chose to keep the doors of the temple always wide open (in Waldensian Valleys temples are not always open), in order to know and to be known, in order to make it a place of encounting, thinking and praying.
So… Are you packing your bags too?
Do you want to read the tale in Italian ?