10 alternative places of worship to visit in Italy

Italy is known for its Renaissance religious heritage. However, there is much more to Italian architecture and design than those representations, for example, the following 10 buildings, which are modernist creations.


Chiesa di S. Nicolao della Flue

San Nicolao della Flue, built in 1968-1969, was designed by architect Ignazio Gardella of the ‘Modern Movement’. A fundamental element of Gardella's project is the sailcloth, which characterises both the interior and exterior. In the shape of an upturned ship hull of reinforced concrete, the interior displays an impressive and futurist succession of anthracite arches.

S. Nicolao della Flue
Wikimedia Commons

Chiesa della Sacra Famiglia

The Sacra Famiglia church, built in 1971-1974, is the first religious building made entirely from reinforced concrete. The architect, Paolo Portoghesi, wanted to create a building that would express Christians concepts such as the unity and centrality of the divine through the use of curved shapes. The colours of the windows symbolise the dialogue between human nature and divine nature. The tubular structures can be assimilated to lit flames that guide visitors upwards, where the circular openings invite direct contact with God.

Sacra Famiglia

Chiesa del Santo Volto di Gesù

The Santo Volto di Gesù Church, built between 2003 and 2006, is one of the most successful examples of modern religious architecture in Rome. The building is based on a project of architects Piero Sartogo and Nathalie Grenon. The building plays on its luminosity as showcased by the centrality and size of its circular window, designed by Carla Accardi.

Santo Volto di Gesù

Chiesa e Centro Pastorale Papa Giovanni XIII

The Chiesa e Centro Pastorale Papa Giovanni XIII is a modern religious building conceived from 1994 to 2004 by architect Mario Botta. It is made of reinforced concrete, its interior consists of a single hall made with Verona red marble, wood and steel. The building faces the 18th-century church of San Alessandro Martire.

Chiesa e Centro Pastorale Papa Giovanni XIII

Chiesa di San Paolo Apostolo

San Paolo Apostolo is a modern church built between 2001 and 2009, on the location of an old church destroyed by the 1997 earthquake in the area. Designed by Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas, it owes its cubic form to a description of the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation, suggesting that the holy city has an equal length and breadth.

San Paolo Apostolo

Chiesa del Santo Volto

Santo Volto was built between 2004 and 2006 based on a design by Mario Botta. The brick building draws its inspiration from the industrial district in which it is located; an ancient chimney was intentionally left beside the church. The building is surrounded by seven radially arranged towers that are closed at the top by skylights.

Santo Volto
Wikimedia Commons

Mosque of Rome

The Great Mosque of Rome, built between 1984 and 1995, is the largest mosque in Italy and the largest in Europe. The work of the architect Paolo Portoghesi is meant as a modern syncretism of Maghreb, Ottoman and Persian mosque architecture. The whole is designed to be integrated into the green environment.

Mosque of Rome
Wikimedia Commons

Basilica dei Santi Pietro e Paolo

St. Peter and St. Paul's Basilica is undoubtedly one of the most famous churches in Rome's modernist quarter (Q. XXXII). The building, designed by architect Arnaldo Foschini in 1938, is a Greek cross and features a reinforced concrete structure topped by a 31-metre diameter dome. It was not until 1955 that it was officially opened for worship. The two colossal statues of St. Peter and St. Paul facing the building since 1942 are two of the most representative elements of the basilica.

Santi Pietro e Paolo

Santuario Madonna della Lacrime

The basilica-sanctuary Madonna delle Lacrime is a Marian sanctuary erected in memory of the miraculous tearing of a plaster effigy representing the Virgin Mary in 1953. The work was designed in 1957 by the French architects Michel Andrault and Pierre Parat following an international competition, but the structural works are by the engineer Riccardo Morandi. Built between 1966 and 1994, the church was elevated to the status of a minor basilica by John Paul II in 2002.

Madonna della Lacrime
Wikimedia Commons

Concattedrale Gran Madre di Dio

Concattedrale Gran Madre di Dio was built between 1967 and 1970 following the design of architect Gio Ponti. The structure refers to the maritime tradition of the city, representing a "sail" that is reflected in the water of the three pools in front of the entrance, symbolising the sea. The interior, with its vaulted ceiling with plaster walls and stone high altar, is decorated by an apse with the themes of the Annunciation.

Gran Madre di Dio