EUROPE’S BIGGEST SINNERS
In the increasingly agnostic 1990s the popular Portuguese rock band Xutos e Pontapés sang “...não sou o único a olhar o céu” (“...I'm not the only one watching the sky”). Barely twenty years later remote locations all over Portugal are being resurrected with tiny chapels, small architectural wonders designed to draw in the most unfaithful of believers. Rural locations that people once used to escape from have now become the new purgatory for tourists, where local priests lure in young and old into small architectural haunts of newfound faith. In Netos, a small town two hours north of Lisbon, a small chapel designed by Pedro Maurício Borges, is stuck between two roads. Whilst choosing a path to follow, the huge altar window invites visitors to enter as a showcase not unlike the windows in Amsterdam’s red-light district. The curtain is closed when the show is over but in the back stands Virgin Mary, working overtime as if to save all sinful souls. Two other contemporary examples are the chapel of Eternal Light on the island of Azores; or Santa Ana’s chapel in Santa Maria da Feira, near Porto. The former, designed by Bernardo Rodrigues and still under construction, rises as an inverted concrete and metal pyramid and is anchored in reflecting pool of water. This pagan form reminds the holy trinity shaping a space that grows in the heights and allows people’s beliefs to travel from the room trough the skylights on the ceiling. The latter, designed in 2009 by e|348 Arquitectura, reproduces a kind of Ronchamp-effect in its small interior with few simple construction details. Modular opennings are incrementally placed in the main altar from floor to ceiling making a vibrant facade.Yet it’s in the exterior design that lies its biggest revelation: a large forecourt that invites people to sit and congregate, creating the possibility for mass reunions, extending the real chapel space onto the street. Although the capacity of these new houses of religious as well as architectural worship is comparatively small, the faith of their congregation is steadily growing. It is still too soon to tell whether these new man-made apparitions mark a general trend or are merely punctual phenomena — now there is no more space for peccancy. In these small architectural sanctuaries, you will find the highest scale of devotion.
Author: Diogo Passarinho