Jubilee Church

An ethereal church design that utilizes extraordinary geometry, creating a pilgrimage site for the new millennium.


Jubilee Church was conceived in response to a request from the Vatican as part of Pope John Paul II’s millennium initiative to rejuvenate parish life within Italy. Located on a triangular site outside of central Rome, the design includes a paved plaza for public assembly as well as a reflecting pool and two open courts for mediation and gathering—one a full story below ground and another elevated—and is carefully integrated into the surrounding urban context. The geometry of the entire complex is based on a timeless composition of platonic shapes that carry rich symbolic meaning.

The proportional structure of the complex is based on a series of squares and circles. Three circles of equal radius generate the profiles of the three concrete shells that, together with the spine-wall, make up the body of the nave. While the three shells imply the Holy Trinity, the reflecting pool symbolizes the role played by water in the sacrament of Baptism. The materials used in the portico—the paving, the wall cladding and the liturgical furniture—allude to the body of Christ’s church as well as referencing the fabric of the adjacent residential area.  

The building’s three concrete shells, each one a spherical section, offer a masterful combination the symbolic and the aesthetic. This tripartite structure again recalls the holy trinity, while the openings between the layered shells create space for glazed skylights, enlivening the nave with a constantly changing pattern of light and shade. Ethereal natural light is diffused over the inner volume of the church and varies according to the hour, the weather, and the season, imparting an ineffable specificity to the interior.