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Temple of Monte Grisa

Trieste, Italy
1 of 37

The Temple of Monte Grisa is a Roman-Catholic church north of the city of Trieste. Located at an altitude of 300 metres on the edge of the Karst Plateau it is a conspicuous landmark. It is overlooking both the former Austro-Hungarian neo-Classical port and the Adriatic Sea.

It was built at the initiative of Antonio Santin, since 16 May 1938 Bishop of Trieste and Koper. Seeing the riots between the Nazi-German occupiers and the Comitato di Liberazione Nazionale on 30 April 1945 he made a vow to erect a church, if Trieste was saved from total destruction. The city was saved and in 1959 Santin obtained permission from Pope John XXIII to build a pilgrims church dedicated to the Holy Mary as a symbol of the peace and unity of all people. The temple would gather the memory of four events: the consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (September 13, 1959), the salvation of Trieste (30 April 1945), the memory of fallen and missing soldiers (1945) and the memory on the Italian exodus.

The temple was designed by Antonio Guacci, after sketches by Santin. The triangular structures should evoke the letter M as a symbol of the Holy Mary. The church was built in between 1963 and 1965, after a first stone had been laid on 19 September 1959. Santin inaugurated the church on 22 May 1966. On 1 May 1992 Pope John Paul II visited the temple. In 2010 restoration works took place.


The bishop Antonio Satin had vowed to build a church if the city of Trieste was spared from a total destruction from the Nazi occupiers and the local Yugoslave Tito partisans in 1945. Umberto Nordio produced a first plan for the building, and Adalberto Libera and Luigi Moretti were involved as consultants in the planning process. The construction was finally carried out with plans from Antonio Guacci. In his works, Guacci was concerned again and again with the development of ornamental designs with circles, triangles, spheres and cylinders. With Monte Grisa he had the opportunity to build his geometric utopias. The unusual commission and the spectacular situation on the high plateau with view on the see allowed him to stay very close to his drawings and fantasy projects. The triangular structure should evoke the letter M as a symbol for the Holy Mary.

The Structure

The Temple was designed with the canons of classical beauty: the golden section, the triangle of Euler, the beautiful proportions of mathematics and the square root of 5, with a harmonious and proportionate balance of the parts. The author, inspired by the diamond set on the ring, has intended to draw everyone's gaze towards the temple. It is one of the first buildings in reinforced concrete, modular, self-supporting. The module used is the isosceles triangle, with the base equal to the height, geometric figure that gives the structure a great stability.

Facade Design

The triangle in the biblical symbolic language represents the transcendence of God and recalls the first truth of faith, the Trinity. The volume of the building is 40,000 m3 with a height of about 40 m, with the surface of the lower classroom of 1,600 square meters and the upper one of 1,500 square meters; noteworthy dimensions for a building of worship, so as to make it together with its location the most majestic of Trieste. The glass walls of the upper church give the room transparency and brightness that make it in continuity with the sky, the sea and the surrounding vegetation.

The lower church, instead, with the interweaving of the luminous beams, with its "blades" of light and the penumbra give inside a mystery that invites reflection and silence. Antonio Guacci, excellent artist and intellectual, of Judeo-Christian culture, true lover of abstract art, emancipating himself from mimesis with nature, he created the Temple with the use of very few geometric elements, obtaining a work with a simple and flowing line.

In the upper hall the large triangular profile of the structure with the point inwards draws a large M - the monogram of Mary. The glass triangles that cover the facade supported by ribs of reinforced concrete form a long sequence of letters A and M representing the initials of the angelic greeting: "Ave Maria". The form of the triangle also appears in the cross above the altar of the Eucharist, to support with their thick texture the large colored crystals that form the five lobes of the cross, signifying the 5 wounds of Jesus crucified.

Concrete Beehive Symbolic

The lower church, oriented from north to south, with its baseness, symbolizes humanity in its creatural dimension. The upper church, oriented from east to west with its eminent height, symbolizes transcendence, divinity. The intersection of the axes of the two superimposed churches symbolize the great Christian mystery: the irruption of the divine in the human, the incarnation of Christ, true God and true man, a mystery that through Grace is realized in every baptized person when welcoming him his life.

The interior of the upper church is modeled as a hexagonal structure of bees due to the multiplicity of the hexagonal elements that cover its walls so as to make them resemble to the beehive. It is a symbol that recalls a passage from the Easter Announcement: "the result of the work of the bees, symbol of the new light ... its bright splendor does not end, but increases on the wax that the mother bee has product to supply this precious lamp ". This symbolic dimension actualizes the charism of the Temple that reads: "from this honeycomb, the Temple; the mother and queen bee, the Madonna; wants to dispense his honey, his heavenly thanks to all those who come to pray to her.

The upper church, on the other hand, resembles the "deck" of a ship, where the main altar, indicates the bridge of command. In the composition of these symbols, the Temple also from the outside announces an ever present message: "unity in plurality is reached when one looks upwards, where one sees what unites rather than what divides".

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bostjan, November 19th, 2023
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