Pope Francis sends a message to the 26th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, and urges architects to design sacred spaces that draw inspiration from the Church’s liturgy.
By Devin Watkins
As the Pontifical Academies held their 26th Public Session on Tuesday, Pope Francis reflected on the importance of sacred architecture, which formed the theme for this edition of the Public Session.
He recalled his 2022 Apostolic Letter Desiderio desideravi, which was dedicated to the liturgical formation of the people of God.
Rediscovering symbolic language
Sacred architecture, said Pope Francis, must seek to rediscover “symbolic language and be able to interpret it.”
“To have lost the capacity to grasp the symbolic value of the body and of every creature renders the symbolic language of the Liturgy almost inaccessible to the modern mentality,” he said, citing his Apostolic Letter. “And yet there can be no question of renouncing such language. It cannot be renounced because it is how the Holy Trinity chose to reach us through the flesh of the Word. It is rather a question of recovering the capacity to use and understand the symbols of the Liturgy.”
Inspiration from liturgical life of Church
Artistic and architectural creativity, added the Pope, must also draw inspiration from the liturgical life of the Church and the action of the Holy Spirit, rather than merely from human preferences.
He said the liturgy and the art that surrounds the liturgical space must be free from “subjectivisms” and the “invasion of cultural elements”.
Winners of Pontifical Academies Award
The Pope went on to congratulate the winners of the Pontifical Academies Award for their contributions to sacred architecture.
The gold medal was awarded to “OPPS Architettura” studio in Florence for its work to renovate a chapel in Rome belonging to the Foundation of Sts. Francis of Assisi and Catherine of Siena.
The silver medal went to the architect Federica Frino for her project for a new church dedicated to St. Thomas in the central Italian city of Pontedera.
The Pontifical Academies Awards were assigned based on the criteria of “design, outfitting, liturgical adaptation, renovation, and reuse of spaces dedicated to worship, taking into account new requirements and contemporary architectural language.”
In conclusion, Pope Francis thanked the Pontifical Academies for their “fruitful efforts in their areas of research and service”.
And he entrusted their members to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary, the “Temple and Ark of the New Covenant.”