santa maria goretti church: distinctive yet timeless
natural forms and the curves of baroque architecture inspired mario cucinella architects‘ design of this organic-shaped church in italy. located in the calabrian hill town of mormanno, overlooking pollino national park, the new parish church of santa maria goretti also features a cross incision on the front façade and a four-leaf clover plan.
the project was awarded to mario cucinella architects following a competition organized by the episcopal conference of italy (CEI), the national assembly of bishops. construction began in 2015 and has been completed this year. the religious building is dedicated to the catholic church’s youngest saint, saint maria goretti (1890-1902).
images © duccio malagamba
informed by calabria’s austere byzantine churches, such as the UNESCO-inscribed cattolica monastery in stilo, the church is composed of four white concrete apses, which generate a distinct flowing shape. the rest of the church exterior is characterized by a few essential elements including a subtle entrance opening, an illuminated cross, and engraved words relating to the life of saint maria goretti.
the minimal exterior gives way to a surprising interior filled with translucent fabric hung from the 16-meter-high ceiling in the form of curvaceous drapes. this ethereal design element continues the flowing form of the architecture while filtering soft light down into the worshipping space.
for the furniture, mario cucinella design created simple podiums and seating in wood and steel that serve to highlight the architectural and sculptural elements of the church interior. on one day each year — the feast of saint maria goretti on july 6th — a beam of sunlight shines directly on the crucifix set on the wall behind the altar.
as well as creating a distinctive yet timeless building, mario cucinella also sought to forge a relationship between art and architecture, in dialogue with the sacred. reflecting the fluid shapes of the walls, artist giuseppe maraniello created a lectern, tabernacle, baptismal font and figure of the virgin mary in stone, bronze and mosaic.
‘designing a church is a message of continuity with the spirit of art that has passed unperturbed through the centuries of humanity,’ says architect mario cucinella.
the church forms part of a small new urban complex, including a new parish center also designed by mario cucinella architects. this essentially orthogonal single story, large concrete-framed building, offering wide views across the pollino landscape, contains a parish meeting room, church classrooms and the priests’ house gathered around a central planted courtyard and under a living ‘green’ roof.
santa maria goretti church was designed for minimal maintenance and energy usage. the green roofs and the planted internal courtyards, as well as the organic garden in front of the rectory for 0-km cultivation, contribute to the sustainability of the project and serve the local community.