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Richard Meier’s Jubilee Church, Rome Italy

January 3, 2012

The Jubilee Church whose religious name is Dives in Misericordia (Mercy of God), designed by Richard Meier, is situated in the district of Tor Tre Teste about six miles east of central Rome. Its three dramatic concrete shells have raised it to be known as one of the world-class iconic landmark of contemporary architecture. It is strikingly impressive in this middle class housing neighborhood.

Daphne and I took the light rail transit to get to the site, but eventually we had to hail a taxi to finally get us there. Unfortunately the church was closed. Not to be disappointed we walked around the triangular site keenly observing and photographing details that we know which are typical of Richard Meier. As one approaches the church from the north, the lines of access is so carefully planned that one is naturally drawn directly towards the entrance, where a glimpse of the nave at the southern end, can be seen through the glazed entry sidelight.

Spellbound by the beautiful white concrete shells that resemble a smooth marble finish, I choose the station point for my sketch that would stress the importance of the curvature of the structure, yet not dominate the compositional form of the overall architecture. These concrete shells at the western side discreetly representing the Holy Trinity (The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit), stand in contrast to the solid rectangular bell tower, while they seem to cast “protection” over the church.

The Jubilee Church is not a traditional church so to speak. It is a modern iconic church in the likes of Le Corbusier’s Chapel at Ronchamp and Sainte Marie de La Tourette, and more recently the church of Saint-Pierre de Firminy. The concrete “sails”, the skylights and the overall architectural form sets it aside from being a traditional church, and without doubt symbolically it has the distinction of being a spiritual manifestation of a place for worship. Interesting to note that Richard Meir had the opportunity of presenting his design to Pope John Paul II an event comparable to Michelangelo’s presentation of the Sistine Chapel ceiling to Pope Julius II in 1508.

  1. Getting to the site was puzzling. We took the light rail transit and got off at the stop where we considered should be within reach of the bus that would bring us to the church. We could not locate the bus stop even after asking another bus driver for directions. That did not help due to language differences, and so after walking to several other streets and checking bus signs, we gave up and boarded a taxi. It was obvious we would not have been able to find our way to the church because the taxi meandered through many streets before we got there. Getting back was easy because the taxi took us back to the nearest tram and told us which tram to take to get back to Rome. But it was an interesting journey since we experienced the townscapes.

  2. Molly Petersen permalink

    This sketch of the Jubilee Church showed a lot of curves which fascinated me as it is of modern architecture which I like very much. Surprised to see a modern church being built in Italy. One would expect it to be of the usual dome type cathedral architecture.

    Errol your sketches are magnificent as always and I look forward to viewing these wonderful and beautiful cities you visit around the globe on your journeys, filled with passion, and sharing with us that gifted talent of yours through sketching.

  3. Errol Hugh permalink

    This commission won by Richard Meier (USA) in a competition against Tando Ando (Japan), Santiago Calatrava (Spain), Peter Eisenman and Frank Gehry (USA), all renown world class modernist architects. So it is not surprising that the design of the Jubilee Church would be a modern iconic masterpiece.

    Meier’s design of course is inspired by the works of Le Corbusier (France), Alvar Alto (Finland) and Frank Lloyd Wright (USA), to mention just a few of the influential modern architects that Meier considers masters in their own right. Since also this was an invited competition be the Archdiocese of Rome, it is natural to assume that the Jubilee Church is to be seen as a symbol of the new Millennium for the Roman Catholic Ecumenical Council.

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