At first glance, it looks like a giant, concrete puzzle.
The modern design, which incorporates 100 walls of diffent heights and widths, is the foundation of the new Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod in the South Road Properties (SRP).
At 3 p.m. today , Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma will consecrate the chapel, which is being donated to the Cebu Archdiocese by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Sy Sr.
“We expect this infrastructure to be the most modern church in Cebu,” said Fr. Brian Brigoli, one of the consultants in the chapel’s construction which is mainly designed by New York-based architect Carlos Arnaiz.
In this chapel, bishops and cardinals attending tomorrow’s Calungsod National Thanksgiving Mass will gather to change into special vestments shortly before the 5 p.m. liturgical celebration on Nov. 30.
Arnaiz said the chapel design “is meant as a homage to Cebu’s dynamic spirit.”
“Cebu is the oldest urban center of the Philippines; a place where the original dwellers met the white men from the West; the site of the first Catholic church,” said Arnaiz in a statement to Cebu Daily News.
“The Church stands as a sanctuary of stone, sand and glass from where we can meditate on the changes happening in the world and find strength in our encounter of the inexplicable mysteries of God.”
“We wanted to design a sacred space that embodied the contemporary search for meaning. We imagined the church as a mysterious place, a building that resists simple categorization.”
Msgr. Vicente Tupas, Archdiocesan Catechetical Center director, will be the chapel’s first rector.
Months earlier, SM officials announced that the church being built in their SM Seaside complex would be dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God.
According to Brigoli, after the Vatican announced the Oct. 21 date of canonization of Pedro Calungsod, top Cebu archdiocese officials suggested to SM to dedicate the soon-to-rise church to Calungsod instead.
SM undertook the site development of the 27-hectare vacant lot owned by the Cebu city government in the SRP for the Calungsod national thanksgiving celebration which is located across the street.
Several private contractors and the Cebu city government have also donated filling materials and loaned their equipment to level the ground.
The site is across the road from the sprawlng SM Seaside Mall under construction.
Arnaiz said that like a forest, the church design appears to be a puzzling structure that has risen from the ground almost without explanation but on closer study, reveals an organized system.
All walls face one direction so the building is completely opaque on one side and totally transparent in the oppositte view. The walls are aligned along a grid that follow the spacing of the church pews.
Gaps between walls can be used as spaces for a baptistery, an adoration chapel, prayer niches and the 14 stations of the cross.
“Our design encourages the visitor to treat their visit to the church as a search. The bliss of existence is in the thought that in each path taken there is a lesson learned. For the Chapel of San Pedro Calungsod we revisited the Gothic idea of God as both a mysterious and rational being,” Arnaiz said.
Cebu Daily News had a chance to view the interior yesterday.
The main altar has three sacred images, a life-size Blessed Virgin Mary dressed in white and St. Joseph, her husband and patron of the Universal Church on the opposite side.
At the center of the altar is the image of the crucified Jesus Christ.
RJ Leduna, SM City Cebu PR manager, said the air-conditioned chapel has a capacity of 1,000 people.
He said Masses can be celebrated there after it is consecrated today.
A baptistry can be found at the left side of the main entrance while an Adoration Chapel is built behind the chapel. Stations of the Cross can be found outside the chapel.
The most unique feature of St. Pedro Calungsod chapel is its 100 walls.
“The walls come together to form a kind of congregation. They work like a finely coordinated swarm of bees able to organize a multitude of tasks while simultaneously creating an open and adaptable system,” said the architect Arnaiz.
He said the chapel’s design is “contemporary, futuristic and contextual.”
“We wanted to design a sacred space that embodied the contemporary search for meaning. We imagined the church as a mysterious place, a building that resists simple categorization. Like the best Churches of medieval Europe we sought to present parishioners with an architectural image of God as both a mystery and a source of enlightenment.”
“The message here was that the search for meaning is furtive and enigmatic. We have to search and wander. Our design for the Chapel of Pedro Calunsod encourages this ethos of discovery,” he added. /Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter