In Mormanno, a small mountain village in the Pollino National Park in Italy, MC A – Mario Cucinella Architects recently completed the Church of Santa Maria Goretti, the 2011 pilot project winner of the IEC, the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
The 16-meter-high church is a solitary white volume, a monolithic treasure chest towering over the city that surrounds it and containing sacred spaces for religious services.
The new course access to the church is from the north-west side of the site, from where spectacular views of the natural beauty of the park prepare visitors for the spiritual nature of the place of worship. The pavement of the cemetery is the same as the floor inside the church, creating a unique path to the majestic entrance, engraved with words recalling the life of Saint Maria Goretti to invite the faithful inside and symbolically mark their arrival in sacred space. The site is also accessible by the existing road, used mainly to access the adjoining areas of the presbytery, which form a sort of small urban complex dominating the valley and surrounded by gardens.
Mario cucinella chose an organic layout for the church inspired by a deep search for a balance between architecture, contemporary art and the sacred. “The four arms of the cross-shaped arrangement“, Says the architect,”become petals which, with the complicity of light dialoguing with the structure, surround and embrace the space”. The geometry is inspired by some of the most beautiful and important Baroque churches in Italy (such as the Basilica of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, the Basilica of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, the Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and the Church of Sant ‘Ivo alla Sapienza, all in Rome, or the Oratorio Ghisilieri in Ferrara) because “Design a church», Comments the architect,«is a message of continuity with the spirit of art that has imperturbably crossed the centuries of humanity. “
The links between architecture, art and the sacred are present in a number of elements, producing some of the key symbols of the Christian tradition. Like the symbol of the cross, appearing vertically on the main facade visible from the new square in the form of a subtle incision of great symbolic power that lights up in the evening darkness. This result is obtained by a simple but powerful gesture, of the intersection of the entrance gate with the subtle separation of the cladding on the facade.
The exterior cladding contains another important reference directly linking the saint to whom the church is consecrated with an essential ritual in the Catholic liturgy. The story of “the steps of the crossIs said in a series of terracotta tiles on the exterior cladding of the church, designed by the artist Giuseppe Maraniello and made by local children during the pandemic. The episode of the crucifixion itself is represented not by a clay tile but through a window framing the crucifix inside the church. Its position has been carefully considered to ensure that on June 6, the date of the death of the saint to whom the church is dedicated, a ray of sunlight is aligned with the window, completely illuminating the crucifix and creating a symbol of great spirituality. Daylight, a symbol of Christianity, is indeed skilfully used throughout the project. The interior is bathed in sunlight thanks to the synergy between the baroque forms of architecture and the works of art of Giuseppe Maraniello, like the series of translucent veils suspended in the upper part of the sacred space, reminiscent of the Northern Lights and bringing their mystical reflections to the creation of an intimate and meditative atmosphere.
Images courtesy of Mario Cucinella Architects, photo by Duccio Malagamba
Project name: Church of Santa Maria Goretti
Type of project: New construction, religious building
Client: Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio
Architectural project: Mario Cucinella Architects, Bologna
Location: Mormanno, Cosenza, Italy
Architectural project group:
Mario Cucinella (founder and creative director), Luca Sandri (project manager)
Competition: Alberto Bruno, Alberto Casarotto
Final project – Executive: Emanuele Dionigi, Enrico Pintabona, Michele Roveri
Virtual model / Images: Mario Cucinella Visual, Bologna; Engram, Faenza, Ravenna
Physical model: Mario Cucinella Architects, Bologna
Artist: Giuseppe Maraniello
Liturgist: Don Amilcare Zuffi
Structural project: Milan Engineering, Milan
Plant design: Ing. Paolo Scuderi, ing. Riccardo giannoni
Head of works: Arch. Gaetano Leto
Manager procedure (this is an Italian administrative role that manages the tendering procedures): Raffaele Boise
Start date of the architectural project: 2013
Completion date of the architectural project: 2016
Construction start date: November 2016
Work completion date: February 2021
Construction company: Generali Costruzioni, Lagonegro, Potenza
Velario: GiPlanet, Piove di Sacco, Padua
Net area: 950 m²
Photos: Duccio Malagamba