Pilgrimage Church in San Giovanni Rotondo
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people pilgrimage to the place in southern Italy where Padre Pio (canonized in 2002) lived and worked. In response to the growing number of visitors, the monks decided to build a new church. The facade can be opened to link the interior with the adjoining square, thereby increasing the capacity from 6,000 to 36,000 visitors. The huge spiral-shaped central building consists of two intersecting rows of segmental arches, which are laid out in radial form and articulate the roughly 6,000 m2 area. At the centre, the feet of the inner row of arches converge in a funnel-like form. Renzo Piano wanted to build a church of stone based on the model of Gothic cathedrals, yet with a lightweight, modern structure. The slender limestone arches, which serve tostabilize the building and to resist earthquakes, are tensioned internally with continuous steel cables. The timber roof with filigree steel strutting is fixed over this structure like a series of scales. Raised on a low platform, the stone altar marks the liturgical centre of the church and is accentuated by light entering through a roof opening above. The light falls on a 40-metre-high crucifix sculpture by the artist Arnaldo Pomodoro. In the crypt below, the remains of Padre Pio are to be preserved. The sacristy, stores, 30 confessionals and a number of lecture rooms are housed beneath the square.