By Philippa Hitchen
Following on from two highly successful appearances at the Venice Art Biennale, the Holy See will be present for the first time at the prestigious Architecture Exhibition, which opens on May 26th.
The Vatican pavilion will take the form of eleven chapels built on the densely wooded area of the lagoon island of San Giorgio Maggiore. Beginning with a reconstruction of a ‘Woodland Chapel’ by one of Sweden’s early 20th century architects, Erik Gunnar Asplund, the display will include ten other ‘temples of worship’ designed by top artists from Europe, Asia, Latin America, the U.S and Australia.
In dialogue with different cultures
At a press conference on Tuesday, the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi said each architect, whether religious or not, brings his or her own experience into “dialogue with the plurality of cultures” to highlight the catholicity of the universal Church.
The ten chapels must contain two key liturgical elements: a pulpit or lectern, to represent the proclamation of the Word and an altar to denote the celebration of the Eucharistic Supper.
Sacred space in the natural world
Just as Asplund’s 'Woodland Chapel' symbolised the constant quest of humanity for the sacred within the natural world, so this ‘Decalogue’ of chapels forms a pilgrimage for those in search of beauty and of nature in harmony with the created world.
The theme of this year’s Biennale is 'FreeSpace', denoting the generosity of spirit and sense of humanity at the heart of the artist’s activities.
Reconciling spiritual and secular
The promoters of the Holy See’s presence on this international stage hope it will mark another step towards healing the rift between the spiritual and the secular, using contemporary artistic expression to transmit the traditional language of faith.