LOCATION Bergamo, Italy
YEAR 2000
THEME Architecture, Sacred spaces, Church
STATUS Competion
DESIGNERS Antonio Monestiroli
TEAM  Massimo Ferrari, Martina Landsberger, Tomaso Monestiroli

The design of the church is not only the design of a hall. The church is not only the place of assembly, but the place of encounter between the assembly of the faithful and those who celebrate the rite. The hall, therefore, should not accommodate a static, contemplative function, but an event that has its own center from which (and toward which) relationships and paths move. We say this because the most common interpretation today is that the church is the place of gathering of the faithful, putting the meaning of the rite in the background. This is the reason for the cross plan, an ancient form, perhaps too connected to the symbol, yet charged with meaning, meaning of the intersection of two paths leading to the same place: the place of the altar. The altar is reached through the doors of the church, open to the four cardinal points, open to the city in all directions. This is the program.

Architecture is tasked with physically constructing this program, with physically constructing the intersection, the meeting place. The design entrusts the construction of the church to four L-shaped walls, internally and externally faced with stone. These four walls alone define the location of the chancel at the center of the intersection. The four stone walls do not enclose the place therefore, but define the directions from which the place is accessed. This difference is substantial and is the reason why the cross plan has endured so long over time. Because it has always been understood as the form best suited to lead the faithful into the church by welcoming them from multiple directions. The cross is thus the basic choice of the design. Everything else comes as a result: the three identical facades in which there are three large square windows (through which a great deal of light enters) placed above three metal doors, the flat and uniform roof painted blue like the sky, set at a relatively low elevation (8 m above the ground), with a skylight placed right in the center of the chancel that takes light from above. The result is a symmetrical place in which the elements placed in the chancel become the focal points from whatever point one looks at them: first, the altar, a marble volume, a precious object equal to the importance of the rite; the ambo slightly advanced from the altar to get closer to the assembly; the cross that is a necessary witness; then the chair of the president, the candle and other seats. Slightly off to the side, toward the large altarpiece decorated by Luca Pignatelli with Beato Angelico’s quotation of Christ, so earthly as to keep its arms pointing downward, is the small marble building that holds the tabernacle. The baptistery is located at the entrance on the main nave. A small building with its own volume identifiable from inside and outside, with the baptismal font in the center that can also be seen through three large windows protected by gates. The baptistery also has a zenithal skylight that directly illuminates the font, as the rite of baptism dictates. The new church of St. Mary of Loreto is located near the existing 19th-century church, which will become a weekday chapel. Between the two is a large churchyard from which one enters both. The new church is surrounded on two sides by a building that contains the complementary functions required by the notice. The reception center, the pastor’s house and the house for the priest, catechism rooms, and a hall for parish activities. The result is an articulated building with three small courtyards open one to the churchyard and two to the tree-lined avenue leading to the existing church. Next to the sacristy, a small enclosed courtyard allows for parking in a secluded and protected place. New housing for priests will be placed in the existing rectory, and recreational activities connected to the sports center will be located in the existing building that serves as the church. The materials with which the church is built are the most traditional. Except for the four L-shaped walls that form the structure of the building and are faced with stone, all other parts, including the baptistery, are covered with plaster. The window and door frames are metal, and the floor of the church is made of stone as is the floor of the chancel.


Massimo Ferrari (edit by) Antonio Monestiroli Opere, progetti e studi di architettura Electa Milan 2001