Architects: Célia Faria + Inês Cortesão
Location: Chãs, Leiria, Portugal
Design Team: Marco dos Santos, Liliana Pereira
Client: Comissão da Igreja de Chãs
Structural Engineer: Manuel Rodrigues Vieira, Mário Rui Gomes Santos
Acoustic Engineer: João Barrento da Costa
Area: 537 sqm
Photographers: FG+SG – Fernando Guerra, Sergio Guerra
The church is located in the center of a crowded village. The intervention is based on a building previously constructed, where the interior was unfinished. We started with the idea of “building the silence”: in a world full of noise, the church represents a break, a moment of rest, peace and meditation. The strong spiritual character is present but doesn’t intimidate, it gives a sense of protection. The selection of materials, the way of moulding both natural and artificial light and the absence of images had the purpose of achieving harmony, a primarily condition in order to assure silence.
The assembly develops into a shape of an amphi theatre around the presbytery, where the word of God is shared and the Christ image can be found. His physical presence is represented by a polished brass cross over an embedded cross of light on the wall, placed at the center of the altar. The design of the church ceiling was based on the shape of the circular elevation. Different plates were connected from the elevation to the windows above the altar, which allows both zenithal and artificial light.
This shape – like a monstrance – intends reinforcing the idea of holy light when converging our sight to the cardinal point where the light is born and the cross is placed. From there the light is scattered all over the space, just like rays of sun. The complete front wall consists on a wide alterpiece, composed by a tracery wood panel made of alternated vertical thin wood and light lines. In this case a contemporary interpretation of the gilded wood carving technic. This approach is traditionally used in altarpieces, where the wood is carved and covered with gold.
The choice of using wood as the main material provides the space a warm sensation of comfort. Contiguously to the assembly a small chapel was created, in a form of an apse, for the daily celebrations. The inclined shape of the assembly’s ceiling repeats itself on the chapel, without touching the altar’s wall, allowing the light to enter and spread emphasizing the sacred moment.