Santa Maria Church

by | 19. Jul 2012

Project | Religious

Photo: arcspace


The Santa Maria Church in Marco de Canavezes is part of an overall complex that, together with a planned Parish Center, will form a small urban square.

It was the parish priest Father Nuno Higino’s personal decision to call on Siza, and to invest himself fully in this very ambitious project.

The proposed plan by Alvaro Siza, with the church playing a central role, will ensure that the other buildings will be in concordance with the pre-existing scale of the neighbourhood.


Photo: arcspace


One of Siza’s masterpieces is undeniably the church in Marco de Canavezes, a space where he assigns a sacred dimension, as it were, to the light
/Marc Dubois

Photo: arcspace


You access the raised platform of the church yard via a ramp from the east or three broad flights of steps from the West; the two landings correspond to the layout of the city streets.


Photo: arcspace


There is a direct access to the Chapel of Rest from from adjacent land which is the property of the Santa Casa da Misericórdia.


Photo: arcspace


The facade (17.5 x 17.5 square meter ) is in three sections with two projecting towers. The 10 meter high temporary grey steel doors will eventually be replaced by bronze doors.


Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace

One of the projecting towers in the facade contain the Baptistery that, clad entirely in locally made tiles, rises to the full height of the tower. Flooded with light, the simple stone font, placed in the center, can be viewed through a window in the tower.

In the other tower you enter through one of two large glass panels. The glass panels in the towers symbolise the “transparency” of the church.


Photo: arcspace


This entrance lobby, used during the winter months, also contain the stairway to the Organ and bells.


Photo: arcspace


The plan of the church is a simple 30 meter long, 16.5 meter wide and 16,5 meter high rectangle with the main entrance at the South West end of the nave and the altar at the other end.


Photo: arcspace


A 3 meter wide central aisle, with 400 wooden chairs designed by Siza on either side leads to the altar; a solid marble block also designed by Siza.

A rectangular volume on one side of the nave contains the lateral extension of the altar, the sacristy, registry, and confessional rooms. A stairway and elevator connect these spaces to the chapel below.

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Photo: arcspace



Photo: arcspace


Natural light enters the church through three large openings cut into the curved form of the deepened north-west wall at ceiling level and through a low horizontal opening along the south-east wall that frame a view of the neighbouring mountains.


Photo: arcspace


Two light shafts bring in the light the behind the altar and also admits light into the mortuary chapel below.


Photo: arcspace


The materials are typical of Siza with the external walls of whitewashed reinforced concrete, internal walls and ceilings of stucco; with tiles or marble where there is running water. The floors are of wood, granite and marble. The roof is of zinc sheeting. Local construction techniques were used to reduce costs.
Siza’s signature is on every detail.


Photo: arcspace


Having read many articles about the Santa Maria Church I was once again reminded that no graphic representation can adequately substitute for the direct visual and physical experience of architectural spaces.

They did however give me the inclination to visit the church and many other Siza buildings…..

I hope this feature will do the same for you.


CITYMarco de Canavezes
Helena Torgo
Tiago Falcão