By Fr. Tim Zak
The Altar of St. Joseph in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Rome, the worldwide headquarters of the Salesians, was originally located in the choir. It was used for parish celebrations that took place in the choir while the central body of the church was still under construction. Don Bosco wanted this altar as a reminder that the Church, in the plans of Pius IX, was to be dedicated to St. Joseph. The altar is made up of two marble columns with Corinthian capitals that support a broken tympanum. In the center, it reads “ITE AD JOSEPH” (“Go to Joseph”). The painting is by Giuseppe Rollini, a former pupil of Don Bosco in Valdocco. St. Joseph has the Virgin Mary next to him, the Child Jesus is in his arms, and, with his right hand outstretched, he protects the Basilica of St. Peter, offered by a kneeling angel. The illusion of the Patron Saint of the Universal Church is clear.