The Jubilee Church (Chiesa del Dio Padre Misericordioso): the churches of year 2000 – in Tor Tre Teste
In view of the 2000 jubilee of Rome, the curacy decided to build new structures in the city. The main purpose was to bring the Roman suburbs closer to the religious issues. Therefore, some suburbs are chosen as part of international competitions. Surprisingly, the Curia awarded the project for the construction of a new church to a foreign architect, therefore not Roman, or even of Christian religion. Richard Meier. He may be American, but still, he knows the city very well, having explored architectural themes typical of the Baroque. Maybe that is the reason why the Curia trusted his project. Building a church in Rome is a great commitment: we are in the city of a thousand churches, and this is a challenging task, for which the American architect takes full responsibility.
Meier, as usual, intended to make use of the colour white, of volumes and of the light, techniques he had learned to use successfully everywhere. However, white in a vault or in a dome of a church subject to wear and tear due to weather and time. Meier, however, remembers an Italian Engineer who became famous for the use of a particular type of cement (concrey), an innovative material that had a better result as far as degradation and malleability: the engineer Nervi. Italcementi, therefore, who had been the Italian company alongside Nervi for the sports hall, guaranteed a new type of dust-repellent cement that would ensure the integrity and durability of white over time. Confident of this new type of concrete, Meier designed what was perhaps one of the most beautiful and interesting contemporary churches in Rome. The Jubilee Church in Tor Tre Teste. The idea behind the building is that of three shells that draw a space, which also resemble white sails that ply a water surface. Water is a call to purity, to the Catholic liturgy. The church, however, unlike it generally happens in other churches in Rome, does not have its own dome. Domes are what made the city famous: the city of the Cupolone. This as well is a trademark of the new church. Inside, however, the three shells, or sails, continue to draw the space through a game of contrasts created by three slits, three slots from which the light is guided to the ground to reflect in the translucent floor. The church is therefore pervaded by the light that literally fills it, raining down on it from above. In this artifice, the symbology and commonality with the most famous baroque Roman churches, where the light comes from above, continues. Only an architect who had acquired this symbology could ensure their continuity in the contemporary. In the late evening and at night, the church transforms into a great source of light, and, seen from afar, it resembles an illuminated ship, anchored in a safe harbour.
The church of the year 2000 achieves one of the aims that the Curia had set, that of bringing the Roman church to the outskirts of the city. The district of Tor Tre Teste is far from the centre, therefore far from the major centre of worship. The buildings surrounding the square where the church stands are not wonderful, but not particularly unpleasant either. However, the district is a little grey, dull. Meier’s church is designed to hit with the gleam, with transparency, to attract, especially the younger citizens. The shells are open, the three sails give a new light to the whole neighbourhood. The church is shimmering at night. This is a feature of Meier’s works, only visible at night. Just as it happened with the Ara Pacis, the space soon became a new meeting point. The site is frequently visited by schoolchildren from Italy and Europe. In this regard, the city owes a special thanks to the American architect for bringing a flow of visitors to a place where they certainly are not expected. However, I like to think that the best contribution of this church is not only that of having fully achieved the mission that the Curia had entrusted to the Meier studio, but rather the possibility that a young man from the suburbs, looking out onto the balcony of his house, may have followed the work of the building site, the birth of the church itself and may have been influenced so much that he decided to take Architecture classes. I think that the redevelopment of the suburbs has an important role in this.