Our Lady of the Wayside – History

Madonna della Strada


When the clergy were looking for a site to develop a new parish at the beginning of the thirties, they came to see Heathfield a large house with out-buildings and orchards which occupied the present site of Our Lady of the Wayside. As yet no name had been decided for the new parish by the Archbishop. The clergy noted that the lady who owned the house had on her wall a small copy of the picture of the Madonna della Strada (Our Lady of the Wayside) venerated in the church of the Gesù in Rome. The lady was initially reluctant to sell the property but finally agreed and it was decided by the Archbishop of the time, Archbishop Williams, that the new parish should be dedicated to Our Lady of the Wayside.

The church of the Gesù in the centre of Rome near Piazza Venezia occupies the site that St Ignatius chose for the centre of his operations after founding of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in 1540. Pope Paul III who lived in Palazzo Venezia immediately behind the present church, gave the first Jesuits the small neighbourhood Chapel dedicated to Santa Maria della Strada (Our Lady of the Wayside). Although the chapel was too small for the Jesuits needs, it was perfectly located at a central cross-roads, next to the Pope and his court, close to the city hall, the Campidoglio, and in the middle of a developing neighbourhood where rich and poor, Jews and Christians, the refined and the illiterate lived side by side.

Lack of funds and opposition meant that St Ignatius could not build the large Church he dreamt of for his headquarters.When he died in 1556 he was buried in the sanctuary of Santa Maria della Strada. Twelve years later the construction of the church began and it was consecrated in 1584. The architect Vignola designed the chapel of the Madonna della Strada in the new church to house the image of the Madonna which had stood on the facade of the little church given to St. Ignatius in 1540. The Image painted on the outside wall was carefully removed when the little church was demolished and set into the jewel – like round chapel.

“O Mary our heavenly Mother, may you be the guide of our steps on the often steep and rocky road of life, and when this reaches its end, be for us the gate of heaven and show us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

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