When we see a church like the newly-completed San Giacomo Apostolo in Ferrara, Italy, our second question is usually, “Why?” (Our first question might be along the lines of, “Is this for real??”)
Designed by a secular architectural firm who tried to create something that “didn’t look like a church”, the building does have most of the essentials of a church – even though they are rather dark, distorted versions. There is an altar, baptistry, Blessed Sacrament chapel, nave, spartan Stations of the Cross, and multiple crosses, although none appear to hold a corpus.
The design is the result of a competition run by the Italian Bishops Conference, who needed a new church for the city of Ferrara. The exterior is meant to echo the finale of the local hot-air-balloon festival, in which the balloons slowly deflate. I suspect that this does not represent the hopes and dreams of the Fathers fading away after the Council, but it would make an apt metaphor.
In the words of the architect, one enters the church through a grove which seems innocent enough until one realises that groves are often associated with paganism and with the occult. They are even mentioned in the Bible in connection with the worship of false gods. Of course, this may be simply a turn of phrase, as the poplars surrounding the site were obviously planted long before this church was built. But it is an odd choice of words, seeing as the trees are lining the perimeter, rather than being grouped together, as the word “grove” suggests.
Above the altar is an oculus, (Latin for eye; in architectural terms this refers to any eye-shaped feature, such as a hole at the centre of a dome); these are quite often found in churches. This particular one is decidedly creepy, though, surrounded by cold concrete and interwoven timbers, punctuated by the immense, rough cross, and crowning the almost windowless church. The overall effect is less than inviting, and the lack of windows is, well ….. somewhat Masonic.
To the left, you can see the way both crosses almost intersect, with another cross mounted at an angle on the far wall; the clashing, intersecting crosses found in Paul VI’s Masonic-inspired portrait come to mind – more on that here.
The cross that adorns the wall behind the sanctuary is not a Christian one: the radiating arms of the cross are of the same length, suggesting a Rosicrucian cross. Rosicrucianism is an occult movement, linked
with Freemasonry and which contains elements of Kaballah, Alchemy, Christian Mysticism and Hermeticism. Jewels surround this cross: these have no apparent Christian reference, but the architect thought they might remind the faithful of angels. At least that’s what she told the media.
The jewels, stone crosses and bizarre black statuary are the work of the occult-artist, Enzo Cucchi, who was invited by the architects to collaborate with them. The designers describe Cucchi’s black statues, which represent scenes from the Old and New Testaments, as resembling “oozing basalt.”
Enzo Cucci is part of an art movement known as transversalism, and was included in an art exhibition entitled S*** and Die. (Caution – there’s some mild nudity if you click on the link.) The whole thing gets even worse: a documentary film made about that exhibit was called “Seance.”
The baptismal font (right) in this unappealing chamber sits atop what looks like a bidet. Decorum prevents me from drawing a parallel with the art show mentioned above.
The stone font is actually an authentic liturgical antique: it came from an abandoned church in Bergamo. Bergamo, for the historically-minded, is the birthplace of John XXIII and was once the bishopric of the (rather evil) Cardinal Radini-Tadeschi.
Back to the occultist, Cucchi: here’s what one biographer had to say about him:
“Cucchi is the painter as seer, demon and saint, possessor and possessed, he is at once the creator and subject of his tale. He is the painter as mad visionary, participant in and witness to the nether world from which one can emerge after a ritual of fire and purification, to the realm of the sublime.”Description of Cucchi by a devoted fan and art critic.
The painter as demon? Hardly the kind of man one would want working on a church. Unless, of course, one wanted a church reminiscent of an occult-themed safe-room.
The Archbishop of Ferrara, Gian Carlo Perega, is an interesting character. He is by no means a traditionalist, as you would expect after seeing this strange building, but he recently – and post Traditiones Custodes – set up TLM personal parish. Perhaps this was to appease, if not to protect, the rather large traditionalist base in his Archdiocese. Perego is, however, better known as a progressive who promotes the plight of migrants.
I know the sedevacantists like to have fun with churches like this one: I suppose they see it as a vindication of their position. To me, it is just sad. Sad for the people who worship there and don’t know any better. Sad for the priest who doesn’t understand his vocation. Sad for the bishop who thinks being edgy will make him popular. And very sad for the liturgical designer who thinks there are no eternal consequences for making occult motifs an integral part of a Catholic church.