The Church of Pope John Paul II in Páty, Hungary, is a crescent-shaped building featuring skewed angles and whitewashed concrete that aims to turn “passive observers” into active participants of worship.
Local practice Robert Gutowski Architects filled the church in the village of Páty in Budapest with modern takes on traditional aspects of Medieval, ecclesiastical architecture.
The intention was to shift the emphasis towards the altar and the congregation to make the act of worship more engaging.
Traditional churches typically have a rectangular floor plan and are made up of a nave – the central part of the church – and an apse – the semicircular or polygonal area at the end of the aisle, usually located behind the altar.
The Church of Pope John Paul II, however, has an elliptical layout, made up of the crescent-shaped building of worship that wraps around an adjoining oval-shaped outdoor space.
Therefore what would typically be the nave of a conventional church functions as the churchyard or garden, while the liturgical space is situated where the apse would be.
As studio founder Robert Gutowski explains, this layout was designed to place more emphasis on the communal experience of the Eucharist and to “invite people closer to the holy act” at the altar.
“If you like, we invite people into the apse, surrounding the altar, forming a community,” the architect explained. “It is also similar to the liturgy of early times, when Paleochristians simply surrounded a table in their own home – what is known as Domus Ecclesiae.”
“The church clearly defines its purpose: while the Creator and the almighty God are at the centre of traditional liturgy, modern liturgical efforts have shifted emphasis to the recreator God, the image of a perpetually redeeming Christ,” Gutowski added.
“The Church of Pope John Paul II represents a conscious response to liturgical changes in recent decades, rendering it a model church experiment in contemporary church architecture,” he continued.
“Emphasis is shifted toward the active involvement of worshippers.The community is not a passive observer of events in a sanctuary, but rather actively experiences the holy act.”
Several rooms lead off of the central, liturgical space, including a communal room, a service room and an office on the ground floor, and an educational room, guest room, the priest’s living quarters, and access to the bell tower on the first floor.
Each of these rooms are enclosed in one, whole elliptical floor plan – a form chosen to symbolise “perpetuity” and to create a holistic space.
“The concept is that when we say