Santa Maria Goretti Church

Mormanno, Italy
Mario Cucinella Architects
Duccio Malagamba

A gentle wave of white concrete forms four apses that converge into a poetic religious structure. Situated in the high grounds of Mormanno, Italy, the Santa Maria Goretti Church overlooks the surrounding mountains like a symbolic gesture to protect the landscape with its soft white hue, accented with a crossing of thin warm lights and a mellow sky above.

Santa Maria Goretti is one of the youngest saints to be canonised in the Catholic Church. Tributing youth and innocence, Mario Cucinella Architects created a structure that resembles a four-leaf clover in plan view, deconstructing the traditional apsidal churches. The minimal facades are adorned with an indented phrase Cristo Luce Del Mondo, Dio Provvederà, meaning Divine Light of the World, the Lord shall Provide. The simple phrase runs across the diagonal entrance, above which an elegant cross towers.

At the entrance, extruded circular forms intersect each other to reveal sophisticated details of the structure. Where the white concrete from the outside turns and weaves onto the inside, the transition of a polished surface to the barren walls makes a beautiful contrast. The warm environment is amplified with a wooden pulpit, having the same circular form as the architecture. Specially designed chairs are carefully arranged throughout the space. Made of stone, they lighten up the interior with their geometrical aesthetic.

Cascading down the 16-metre-high ceiling, waves of translucent fabric embrace the tender light to emit the space with pleasant holiness. They wrap around each other like an infinite reflection of the building’s form, organically intertwined to harmonise with the space below. Occasional ripples along the fabric give a melancholic feeling, echoing the painful story of Maria Goretti. Nonetheless, the juxtaposition of soft and hard, cold and warm in materiality shapes a complexity in the way one reads this architecture as an artwork.

Santa Maria Goretti Church is designed in the way that its sinuous exterior is a gentle shell, covering a solid interior yet still holding on to a liberating air. Mario Cucinella Architects sculpts the structure based on architectural inspirations, but the unseen connection to the contextual narrative is a lingering and poetic tune to both cherishing the Italian landscape and honouring the Saint.

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