Church of the Immaculate Sacred Heart of Mary

Place: Bologna, Via G. Mameli, 5 

Authors: Giuseppe Vaccaro, Pier Luigi Nervi

Chronology: 1959 | 1960

Itinerary: Architecture for the community

Use: Church

In 1955, the architect Giuseppe Vaccaro was commissioned to build a new district INA-Casa along the expansion axis of west Via Emilia, including the church that rises in a focal point, occupying an entire block within the Borgo Panigale district. The church realizes a new urban centrality in line with both the INA-Casa plan and the cultural elaboration of new sacred spaces in the suburbs. This is in tune with modern architectural language, but also with a new participation by the faithful. The church project also included a bell tower designed by Adalberto Libera and never built.

Detail of the main door with polychromatic windows. The use of materials, reinforced concrete, wood and glass, owes a debt to Le Corbusier’s brutalist architecture.

The perfectly circular perimeter wall, externally plastered with white, is raised from the ground and the slit’s illumination gives lightness to the entire casing.

Details of the reinforced concrete baptistry. The Immacolato Cuore di Maria (Immaculate Heart of Mary) church is one of the best results of Cardinal Lercaro’s relationship and involvement established at the time with architects of the caliber of Vaccaro, Nervi, Grisleri, Vagnetti, and Gorio, just to name a few.

The circular implant is lightened by a concrete cover almost floating on the light. The beam support structure, designed by Pierluigi Nervi, consists of four cruciform pillars that taper upwards and leave the roof statically free from the church perimeter.

At both liturgical and architectural level, the presbytery reform, which frees the altar on all sides, is particularly important. The building’s circular form even allows a liturgical connection between the space and the assembly of the faithful and perfectly meets the Council’s new requests, providing for the centrality of the altar and geometric centrality, enabling a better communion of the assembly of the faithful.

The presbytery in the semi-central position does not have a riser, but its perimeter is recognizable by the difference in flooring as the herringbone bricks of the hall are replaced by concrete slabs. In the Borgo Panigale church, where the Bolognese architect Vaccaro experimented with the central plan, a centripetal force seems to move the circumference of the perimeter, a blind wall, towards the roof, which is also circular, but very luminous and light.

The roof gains plasticity from its nervation, which, with its geometric and symmetrical pattern, imitates a natural structure such as the skeletons of radiolaria.

Text Donatella Scatena
Photos by Altrospazio