Hungarian architecture studio design modern open-air church made from a former Soviet monument plinth

Hungarian architecture studio design modern open-air church made from a former Soviet monument plinth

3 May 2021
Images: Robert Gutowski Architects

A Hungarian architecture studio has designed an open-air church for pilgrims visiting a shrine in the small village of Alsószentiván.

Built by Robert Gutowski Architects, who have designed projects in Hungary from UNESCO heritage sites to gymnasiums, the Our Lady of Fátima Shrine includes a triangle-shaped wooden pavilion with a shingle roof serving as an altar. The structure is raised on one big, uncut block of stone, which formerly served as a 20-ton plinth for a monument at a Soviet-occupied barrack. Wooden benches facing the altar were built for worshipers attending the service. The religious site is set between old chestnut trees and a classicist mansion, which also serves as an alternative, indoor church.

“During the renewal of the surrounding area, our primary goal was to preserve the original ambiance and atmosphere,” the architects say. “Our main concept was to utilise cheap, easy-to-build, and yet very precisely designed structures.”

Alsószenitván, a village of 600 people, has been visited by pilgrims from around the world since 1951, when the community first commemorated apparitions of the Virgin Mary that took place in 1917 near the small Portuguese town of Fátima. Following the event, many places of pilgrimage celebrating Mary’s “emergence” at Fátima were founded, all over the world. The Alsószentiván site was renovated for the 2017 centenary of the event and completed in 2019.

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