Perhaps the worst ever design for a church

If they actually build this monstrosity in L’Aquila, Italy, the Roj Mahal in Los Angeles will no longer be the ugliest church I have ever seen.

I think the locals might actually have to pray for another earthquake.

And now for something entirely similar…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. lofstrr says:

    It is a liturgical potato!

  2. Michael in NoVA says:

    When do they take the sheet off the display so we can see what it really looks like? No, really, when do they take off the sheet? Please tell me that they take off the sheet!

    And what’s with the glass cross? Not only is it not a crucifix, you can barely see it when looking directly at it! I guess they designed it so no one can see it and therefore it won’t offend anyone.

  3. lofstrr says:

    It is things like this that make me think that what we need from the Pope is a solemn definitions of butt ugly and why we don’t do that sort of thing with our churches.

  4. Cath says:

    I sure don’t want to see the inside.

  5. Desertfalcon says:

    The social hall, to be added later, will appropriately resemble a helping of steamed carrots.

  6. Father G says:

    The shape of the church on the top photo reminds me of Mothra from the Godzilla movies.

  7. wanda says:

    What is that?! It looks like a giant larvae of Mothra getting ready to hatch and eat the whole planet! How can this happen, Father? Doesn’t someone higher up have to approve designs, etc.? What, are all the beautiful churches and cathedrals offending someone? Did someone decide we need something truly horrid looking so no one will think we’re too high and mighty, or what?!

  8. Widukind says:

    Looks like the architect was going for an old movie theme in the design – is it Jabba the Hut from Star Wars or the pink sea snail from Dr. Dolittle? I’ll opt for the first. Maybe they will use a new translation for the liturgy in it? I can just hear it – “the Force be with you” and the response – “and with your Jedi”!

  9. kford says:

    I would have named it Our Lady of the Armadillo.

  10. stgemma_0411 says:

    Someone left their dog poo under that glass. Could you please clean it up?

  11. chonak says:

    These guys need to get their heads out of their butts and think about what this lump of concrete is going to look like to passers-by on the street level: uninviting, unattractive, mute, secretive. This is anti-evangelization.

  12. KAS says:

    What a collosal WASTE of money! A shape like that costs far far more to build than a larger traditional building. The money would be much better spent on a nice traditional sort of building and more put into beautiful artwork–or if they want to go modern–how about a Catholic library so that people have access to more quality church teaching?

    Honestly, a building like that is expensive to build–terrible stewardship!!!

  13. Michael, to be honest, I hadn’t even noticed the cross until you mentioned it. It’s nearly invisible… I wonder if that’s the point.

  14. DisturbedMary says:

    The only “explanation” for this is the horrible devastation of the 2009 earthquake — so many beautiful churches destroyed. See pictures here:

  15. introibo says:

    Surely they mean to cover the outsides with some beautiful mosaics…or paintings….or something?

  16. ipadre says:

    I thought the 70’s were gone. Seems like Italy is still in the 60’s!

  17. Denis says:

    Three possible patron saints for the Church: Duodenum, Jejunum and Ileum.

  18. A big white armadillo.

  19. Christina says:

    Someone’s been spending too much time reading science fiction.

    It’s like the architect looked at the metal jelly-bean in Chicago and thought, “Now THAT’S something I’d like to pray in!”

    Seriously, can we all please, please, please, please, please stop hiring architect who are just making fun of us?

  20. Brian Day says:

    My thought is was one of the sand worms from “Dune”.

    Where are the windows? The lighting bill for that – that building – will be huge. I hope the congregation is wealthy enough to run it.

  21. Tim Ferguson says:

    you beat me to it Brian Day – I was wondering if the Shadout Mapes is the sacristan.

  22. Amerikaner says:

    It doesn’t surprise me. When one looks at the artwork portrayed in Italian religious magazines, they all mostly focus on modern art that is very unpleasant. I have wondered over the years if they have become desensitized and now enjoy an ugly aesthetic.

  23. Mitchell NY says:

    It is no joke, it is so ugly and looks nothing like what a Catholic Church should look like.People will have to worship in this thing for decades to come, until it crumbles. The people in the Parish should not allow this. Stand up, donate nothing and make waves before it begins. This type of garbage has been proposed before and been “undone” by the members of a parish. If every Church in the world looked like this how would we be able to define our worship spaces? Where is the stained glass that tells stories of the Saints? Where are the marks that make it distinctly Catholic. I wish the Holy Father would put out some guidelines that must be observed or step in before this is built. It takes away from the people to force them into something like this. More will hate it than like it. That is enough reason not to build it..Period.

  24. irishgirl says:

    It looks like a bug larva or a snail-either way it is butt uuugggllly!

    Why do modern architects have allergies to beauty? Why does everything have to be ‘functional’?

    Also like the ‘Jabba the Hut’ and ‘dog poo’ descriptions, too-another way of describing it?

    Michelangelo and Bruneschelli [sp?] would be shaking their heads in shame and be kicking their modern counterparts in the behind, saying, ‘Do it over!’ !


  25. SGCOLC says:

    In the second and third pictures, it looks to me like a flat, white biretta, without the tassle.

  26. Bruce says:

    It’s the BLOB!

  27. Nathan says:

    Brian Day and Tim Ferguson–that was hilarious. My only worry is how they will deal with inclusive language and Fremen.

    In Christ,

  28. Gregg the Obscure says:

    This design is very appropriate for a Van Gogh Museum, but not a church.

  29. doanli says:

    Agree with a previous comment—this looks right out of Star Wars!!!

  30. revs96 says:

    It is a liturgical potato!
    -Comment by lofstrr

    Let’s make french fries! If this place will ever be perfected, it will be by deep frying. This is a real piece of something all right. To call it a church is a sacrilege, to actually use it as a church is all kinds of sacrilege.

  31. It appears like such architecture is made to “glorify” the architect rather than God. I don’t know who designed the hundreds of gothic cathedrals and churches, but I know Who they were built to give glory to.

  32. revs96 says:

    Look! The three stooges are in the bottom picture!

  33. Frank H says:

    Reminds me of one of those year round domes for tennis or a driving range. And why do none of the three gents (two priests and maybe the architect?) look happy?

  34. bruno says:

    It is just plain UGLY

  35. joecct77 says:

    It is either
    (a) A sandworm from the Planer Arrakis
    (b) A Bug Brain from Starship Troopers

    My other thought is that the architect was on an acid flashback from the 60’s.

  36. AnAmericanMother says:

    Looks like a giant sea cucumber.


    Sometimes you just have to wonder what supposedly sensible people are thinking. Or if they’re thinking.

  37. The Egyptian says:

    its the creature from the original Star Trek that was destroying and digesting entire planets, run for your lives, REALLY, RUN, maybe it will digest the polyester nightmares and happy clappy types and leave the rest of us alone :D

  38. Warren says:

    Nah, yer all wrong… it’s a womb without a view.

  39. I’m hoping that it’s merely a pupa or chrysalis, out of which will emerge a beautiful butterfly of a church.

  40. This is hideous, but the LA Cathedral is still the ugliest Church building

  41. Uh, this is from the Onion, right?

  42. B.C.M. says:

    S. …per omnia saecula saeculorum.

    M. Mua’dib.

  43. maynardus says:

    I’m surprised nobody else mentioned it, but the first thing I thought of when I saw those photos was a man-eating, tennis-playing blancmange! I guess that’s what you get after years of Monty Python bishops…

  44. lofstrr says:

    That’s it, it looks like a giant liver. Paint it brown and call it St Cirrhosis.

  45. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I’m begging you, Father. Please start an online contest for “Ugliest Church In Christendom”.

  46. Janol says:

    It’s tent! A practical, anti-earthquake, collapsible, and portable canvas tent held up with ribbing. – That must be how it was presented.

  47. Athelstan says:

    Hideous. Where is the spine of these bishops and priests? Too many feel that they must embrace the latest architectural fads. How is this deconstructionist design even remotely a catechesis in stone?

    It is not as if there are now design firms working in traditional idioms out there – or parishes/dioceses willing to use them. For example:

  48. dcs says:


    It does look like some kind of larva, or perhaps a pupa.

  49. lhatch says:

    Jeffrey Pinyan: Your book is amazing! Thank you for providing such a wonderful resource!!!!

  50. everett says:

    On a smaller scale, but I’d like to make another proposal in the ugly church contest, the Seattle University Chapel. The outside and sanctuary are terrible, but most horrifying to me is the treatment of the Blessed Sacrament. Yes, that’s the tabernacle sitting on the ground, underneath a dead tree (which holds the lamp).



    Blessed Sacrament Chapel:

    “About the Chapel

    Architect Steven Holl chose “A Gathering of Different Lights” as the guiding concept for the design of the Chapel of St. Ignatius. This metaphor describes Seattle Universitys mission and it also refers to St. Ignatius vision of the spiritual life as comprising many interior lights and darknesses, which he called consolations and desolations.

    Holl conceived of the chapel as “seven bottles of light in a stone box,” with each bottle or vessel of light corresponding to a focal aspect of Catholic worship. Light passes through each bottle in a specific area of the building to define physical and spiritual spaces with pools of clear and colored light.”

  51. Cathomommy says:

    We have these buildings all over the place here in the frozen wilds of Michigan! They usually have a sign outside like, “Mulligan’s,” or “Eagle’s Nest,” and they house indoor driving ranges. “Teed-Off” is what I would be if this were my parish!

  52. Brian Day says:

    @ Warren, Rimshot! :-)

  53. tzard says:

    So what’s it trying to say? Saying it’s hideous can be mistaken for a comment on mere aesthetics.

    The form of a Church is intended to convey a message. What message might this convey?

    Formlessness? Being blown around by the wind? The “creativity” of the designer?

    Maybe the Blancmange has an opinion?

  54. chironomo says:

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who thought “larvae” when they saw this thing. Perhaps it will hatch into a Gothic Cathedral when it matures.

  55. pelerin says:

    It looks like a giant albino slug!

  56. my kidz mom says:

    The poor people of L’Aquila have suffered enough. They don’t deserve to have their hearts broken by erecting this monstrosity.

  57. JonM says:

    The Raj looks downright spectacular compared to this.

    This thing looks like a partially decayed whale carcass. Not sure what the intention is here because it’s obviously not to spread the faith and inspire contemplation of the Divine.

  58. Kaneohe says:

    This might simply be a temporary “church”. I’ve seen similar -though less ugly – inflatable buildings in disaster zones.

    Should this in fact be a design for a new church then God help us.

  59. patrick_f says:

    Ghostbusters comes to mind

    “the choice is made, the traveller has come!”

    Someone thought of a marshmallow what happened

  60. OK, who thought that the Monarch’s cocoon from “The Venture Brothers” was good inspiration for a church?

  61. Londiniensis says:

    Is that “1 APRILE” or “3 APRILE” in the background of the first photograph? Can’t quite make it out, hope it’s the former!

  62. ljc says:

    If someone had an email address for the Bishop or whoever is in charge we could all send along our disgust and it might actually change some minds…

  63. Carolina Geo says:

    The reason that any type of edifice can be built is that there are sufficient funds to build it. If the parishoners of this parish refuse to donate to the project – and explain why they are not donating – then possibly the project will not progress. The insane priests and bishops who approve these types of sacrilege must be stopped. And yes: I do mean that they are insane. After so many years of free-spiritedness in the Church, with the result of so many people leaving the Church, they think that they should continue in the same new-agey manner. We, the faithful, want to take back the Church of Christ. God help us!

  64. Margaret says:

    They may be getting a call from the Mummenschanz lawyers alleging theft of their set design…

  65. Geremia says:

    Have they not heard of Duncan Stroik in Italy?

  66. AnAmericanMother says:

    But maynardus — no Scotsmen!

    I feel sure that Cardinal Biggles had a hand in this somewhere . . . .

  67. More like St. Sta-Puft Parish in the Archdiocese of Candyland, amirite?

  68. ray from mn says:

    Those weren’t just any old blancmanges; they indeed were from the planet Skyron in the galaxy of Andromeda, here for Wimbledon.

  69. J Kusske says:

    You’d all better not hope they put in stained glass windows, because if they do it will become an Ohmu from “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Winds”, and chances are good its eyes would be red…

  70. Mario Bird says:

    Vincenzo, you’re the best. I kind of like the idea of jawas as pygmy monks. Utinni!

  71. PostCatholic says:

    A question I wonder at is whether it is possible to use a contemporary (that is, of this day) design aesthetic, modern construction methods, contemporary furnishings, contemporary interior design, etc. and achieve a satisfactory result of a church building.

    At a point in history, Gothic architecture was cutting-edge technology (because it allowed such height and light into the interior space).

    What most conservatives seem to think satisfactory is actually nostalgia. Most of the “beautiful” churches in the Americas in their estimation are buildings which, at their construction, were imitative of European churches already antique. I will grant you that many, many “modern” church buildings are unsuccessful in their ability to inspire, or too similar to office buildings or schools to seem like a special place. That’s mostly because they’re constructed on the cheap with minimal intentionality paid to their purpose. But there are successful modern designs, too. I’m thinking of the Jubilee Church in Rome, Hallgrímskirkja in Iceland, Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut, Bruder Klaus Chapel in Germany (probably the most inspiring interior I’ve had the pleasure of), the conical church in Sicily whose name escapes me but I’m pretty sure Rev. Zuhlsdorf will be able to conjure…

    is it the modernity of the building or style to which you object, or their execution? Because if so, how sad that there can be no further progress in art and architecture that can inspire the human spirit.

  72. Sedgwick says:

    Kudos to Vincenzo for the best contextual portrayal of the Shroud of Larvae-Pupae.

  73. Mother says:

    Since God is the author of beauty, it is obvious this is not the work of God.
    O’ Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us!

  74. Timbot2000 says:

    I Can’t believe you missed this reference! The Python Architect Sketch
    (Also good against Freemasons too)

  75. Maltese says:

    It looks like a deer pellet; only in beige. (Or, perhaps that is giving it too great a compliment?)

  76. LoyalViews says:

    I take it that the guy in the middle is the “distinguished” architect!

  77. edwardo3 says:

    This is most unfortunate. I’ve only seen one of these sort of buildings work well, St. Stephen’s in DC. St. Stephens, is supposedly modeled on Jonah’s whale, and it works because of the appropriate use of glass, and decoration, but this is not up to that standard. They need to start over.

  78. deborah-anne says:

    Surely this is moronic jesting!

  79. DdC says:

    Now I guess the two on either side of the (ahem) architect are “Pete” and “Repeat” ?

    You know, a few things come to mind: 1. An hotel for “tribbles” from Star Trek. 2. Topo Gigio wouldnt even live in a joint like that.
    3. What would Doug Savage’s chickens say about this?

    Lord, please forgive me–wait a minute FORGIVE THEM!!!

  80. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s a very pale cheap croissant. NO, wait, it’s a cocoon. NO, wait, it’s a pile of dirty laundry in a cheap laundry bag. NO wait, it’s a bag of kitty litter with lumps. Okay, I give up. What is it?

  81. lhatch – Thanks! (Who are you?)

  82. chonak says:

    Thanks for posting the blancmange, Father.

    Well, at least this is a design for a building that cannot be ruined by an earthquake.

  83. Agnes says:

    Thank you, Vincenzo. The most pious uplifting thought came to mind when I saw this – “What the hell…?”

    Catholics. Sheesh.

  84. Denise Riggio says:

    It may look like a lot of things, but the one thing it DOES NOT look like is a building that will uplift hearts and minds enabling them to better give glory and honor to Almighty God. Living in LA Diocese we have seen the demon like conspiracy fulfilled in the structure that some call a cathedral….these gross structures not only are visible eyesores but work with a feverish intent to numb the faith in souls….

  85. lhatch says:

    @ Jeffrey Pinyan: My name is Lorenzo Hatch, a 2nd year graduate theologian studying for the Diocese of San Angelo, Texas at Assumption Seminary. Earlier today, I was heading to class with a confrere who happened to had your book laying in the passenger seat. I picked it up and started to read it. I immediately started to sing its praises and inquired where he got it. He told me that a parishioner of the parish that he is assigned to do ministry gave him that book. I was immediately jealous and started to inquire as to where I could obtain a copy. I did notice that you were a devout reader of WDTPRS and was pleasantly surprised to have noticed you commenting on this entry. We definitely need to get your book in the hands of more people… (of course me being one of them). Thanks for all you do and if you ever want to keep in touch, I can be reached at: hatch [dot] lorenzo [at] gmail [dot] com.

  86. wanda says:

    Vincenzo does it again! Nice work. This pale slug of a something befits the sand people, for sure.

  87. kittenchan says:

    It reminds me of the sort of architecture featured here:
    … perhaps it will wind up on that site and receive its own too-true caption once it is built.

    It’s lonely in the modern world…

  88. Greg Smisek says:

    “And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters.” (Gen. 1:2)

    Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of this church.

  89. poohbear says:

    Looking at the walkways I get the impression of it being surrounded by water.

  90. PostCatholic says:

    It is not as if there are now design firms working in traditional idioms out there – or parishes/dioceses willing to use them. For example:

    That is an incredibly poorly executed gothic design.

    The point of gothic was to let light into a building and create volume and a sense of upward movement. In a time before steel skeletons, the big ribs and buttresses of gothic buildings held relatively thin walls that could support massive expanses of glazing. This was meant to be radically different from the fortress-like civic buildings and short and dark vernacular buildings one would elsewhere find in a medieval town.

    The drawing you link to shows small windows atop larger on the narthex, small windows on the nave, big windows in a tower where there is no need for them, a very awkwardly placed clock right over a lancet window, and a poorly executed, kind of silly porch that pulls the facade of the building lower right where traditional gothic design would try to be imposing. It also shows no use of sculpture, which is so central to the gothic tradition.

  91. Filipe says:

    Don’t mean to get competitive, but Seattle University and L’Aquila have nothing, and I mean nothing, on this:

    The new parish church proposed for Restelo, in the Patriarchate of Lisbon.

    Take particular note of the minaret. The architect, a noted freemason has boasted about how he included masonic symbols in the structure. Classy. Even the patriarch has spoken out against the design, construction has begun, but apparently nothing can be done to stop it, seeing as the land and the design were all offered by the city (mayor at the time was a noted atheist and freemason as well).

  92. PostCatholic says:

    The architect, a noted freemason has boasted about how he included masonic symbols in the structure. Classy. Even the patriarch has spoken out against the design, construction has begun, but apparently nothing can be done to stop it, seeing as the land and the design were all offered by the city (mayor at the time was a noted atheist and freemason as well).

    One thing that can be done is to refuse to use it.

  93. Mariana says:

    Doesn’t it look a little like the car museum outside Nice, in France?

  94. LaudemGloriae says:

    @L’Aquila: why?

    @Filipe: LOL! Somewhere a magical unicorn is missing it’s horn …

  95. LaudemGloriae says:

    @L’Aquila: why?

    @Filipe: LOL! Somewhere a magical unicorn is missing its horn …

  96. lhwhitaker says:

    >>>I think the locals might actually have to pray for another earthquake.

    It’s a horrible design for a church, to be sure. But after the catastrophic earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, I think suggesting that the locals “pray for [an] earthquake” is really in very poor taste.

  97. Gail F says:

    There’s one hopeful note, anyway. Remember, the blancmange DID win Wimbledon.

  98. catholicmidwest says:

    Look on the bright side. Keep track of how much you paid for it, and when the schism comes, offer it to the heretics and keep the old one. After all, this one has a higher monetary “value,” right?

  99. TonyLayne says:

    @ PostCatholic:

    Is it the modernity of the building or style to which you object, or their execution? Because if so, how sad that there can be no further progress in art and architecture that can inspire the human spirit.

    Oh, it’s definitely the execution, whether you operate from traditionalist or modernist grounds. The Blancmange is a definite eyesore, an aesthetic nightmare. It makes me wistful for the “mega-church” big concrete box, that’s how bad it is. But more to the point, it’s an expression of the architect’s ego and salesmanship rather than of Catholicism. We don’t have to have something neo-Gothic … but surely we can do better than this!

    BTW, thanks everyone for the many SF and MP references! We definitely have to laugh at something like this … else we’d have to cry.

Comments are closed.