St. Mary Of The Angels
The design of the new “St. Mary of the Angels” Chapel in Rotterdam’s Catholic “St. Lawrence” cemetery combines historical influences with modern forms.
The Catholic “St. Lawrence” cemetery, designed by Dutchman H.J. van der Brink, opened in 1865. Van der Brink’s chapel, designed in the neo-Gothic style, was unable to withstand the poor soil conditions of the location, and in 1963 the old building was replaced with a new building; erected on top of the original cellar vaults. When the old vaults were ready to give in Mecanoo Architecten were commissioned to design a new chapel.
The new chapel is situated in the middle of the grounds in the center of a star-shaped system of paths connecting the graves.
With its impressive roof, its golden ceiling and wavelike “moving” wall, the new chapel exhibits the sensual elements of the baroque.
The stone foundation walls of the old neo-Gothic chapel form the pedestal, “the footprint”, for the new building.
The insides of the walls radiate in an intensive, deep blue; analogous to the robe of the Virgin Mary and the primary colour of many paintings from the Renaissance. Containing text passages from the burial liturgy in different languages, the walls mirror Rotterdam’s cultural diversity.
The intimate inner room has an aura of contemplative stillness and austerity.
The path of the mourners leads in one continuous movement through the flowing frame-formed rooms of the chapel. The dynamic design of the room lends the consecration ceremony a distinct setting, which in its “unrestrictedness” impressively reflects the Christian ideas of life and death.
Like a folded piece of paper, the chapel roof floats above the interior as a golden, unbroken surface. Two almost round surfaces within the concrete floor covered in stone mark the position where the priest and the congregation stand.
The golden ceiling is artificially lit from below, making it glow with a gentle lustre, and an opening in the roof illuminates the polished concrete altar in concentrated daylight.
The smooth light grey walls, lined with TECU¨-Zinn horizontal seamless copper strips and separated from the floor and ceiling by 70 centimetre high glass inserts, appear to float in the room. The copper has been tin-plated on both sides which, over the years, will create a mat grey, warm tone that will harmonize with the other construction materials.