The church of San Pietro Apostolo was designed by the architect Mario Botta and built between 1987 and 1995.
The sacred building makes a significant impact in the countryside of Merate and expresses an intense search for dialogue with the old town of Sartirana and the church opposite which it was added to because of a lack of space.
The parvis of the new church has become an elements that connects the town, the new piazza and the meeting place for the community.
The building is a parallelepiped with a cylinder inserted within. The rigid structure of the church contrasts with the fragmentary reality of the place where it stands. Inside the parallelepiped, on the other hand, the curved shape of the cylinder encloses the worshippers in a central-plan chamber. The elevations have virtually no windows and the only decorative element is the staggering of the brick texture by a few centimetres to create a sense of chiaroscuro.
Inside, the curved wall is punctuated by rows of bricks rotated 45° in order to obtain different shadows under the penetrating light that enters from above.
A large arch opening directly illuminates the altar area whereas a diffused light enters through the skylights that run along the edge of the ceiling. The women’s galleries that follow the cylindrical shape define the central area and encourage meditation and reflection. The flat coffered ceiling seems to be suspended in mid air and extremely light, detached from the perimetral walls by a system of beams and surrounded by the skylights mentioned above.
The structure of the building is made of cast-in-place reinforced concrete whereas the bricks are hand-made and laid with different textures to create a continuous vibration of light and sound: in the chamber where services take place, the diamond-laid bricks are also sound-absorbent The parts not covered in bricks are covered with Venetian plaster.
The floor consists of grey stone slabs alternating with strips of black marble. The same stone is used in the steps leading up to the church whereas the parvis is paved with porphyry cubes.
The large window in the apse which draws attention to the liturgical fulcrum is made with panels of translucent onyx interspersed by a metal frame that projects the outline of a tree onto the wall, a figure of great symbolic significance in the Catholic religion.
The furniture including the altar is made of oak whereas the entrance doors are made of stainless steel.
The baptismal font takes up the architectural scheme of the building with a cylinder placed in a cube to symbolize the entry of Man into the church.
How to get there:
By car: from Milan take the A51 (east ring road) and the SS342; from Lecco the SP72
By train: Cernusco-Merate railway station
Modern architecture in the surrounding areas:
Museo Civico Palazzo Belgioioso
Public opening hours:
8.00 - 12.00 and 15.00 - 18.00
AA.VV., Mario Botta. Cinque architetture, Skira, Milano 1996
Emilio Pizzi, Mario Botta, Studio Paperback, Berlino 1998
Emilio Pizzi, La chiesa di Sartirana, in Ecclesia n. 12, 1995